Friday, October 24, 2008

26. Sugar Maple

One of the most gorgeously colored trees around here, Acer saccharum is known also as "Hard maple" or "Rock maple" in addition to its well-known common name. While it is much sought-after as furniture wood, the Sugar Maple is the source of that sweetest of the sweet, oh-so-delicious treat to eat, maple syrup. Each tree yields between five and sixty gallons of sap per year, and it takes thirty-two gallons of Sugar Maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup or four-and-a-half pounds of maple sugar. My ten-year-old says, "I want a box of maple sugar on my birthday." Seriously, he does. Though he's been inspired by the song, "Wells Fargo Wagon," which our chorus is currently singing.

Friday, October 17, 2008

25. Sassafras

I was excited to find this leaf among what we gathered yesterday for our "family tree of plants." Not only do I like saying the name, but the oddly shaped leaves of Sassafras albidum make a refreshing change from the maples and oaks that abound in this area. My seven-year-old found this leaf and I hope she can show me where tomorrow, so we can find all three shapes in which these leaves present themselves.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

24. Oriental or Asiatic Bittersweet

Celastrus orbiculatus is considered a noxious weed in the state of Massachusetts. Evidently this vine can smother plants over which it grows, and its weight can cause other plants to be uprooted, and it is displacing American Bittersweet, according to The National Park Service. Ah, well--it's fall colors are pretty, and I have wound it around our front yard's lamppost as a decoration in years past.

23. White Oak

This time I didn't have my camera on our walk. This leaf is from a very young specimen of an important lumber tree, Quercus alba, also called "Stave Oak," because the wood is used for making whiskey barrels and barrels for other liquids. Used for shipbuilding in colonial times.

22. Yellow Poplar

Unfortunately, the tree I found had very few yellow leaves on it, hence my decision to photograph just the one leaf. If I can get a good photo when the tree changes completely, I'll add it here. It should be beautiful in full autumn splendor.

Liriodendron tulipifera, or "Tuliptree" or "Tulip-Poplar," as the Yellow Poplar is also called, has "large showy flowers resembling tulips or lilies" in the springtime (National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees, Eastern Region, p. 436). I'll definitely be on the lookout come spring.

21. Pignut Hickory

After a month's hiatus, here is my next entry: Carya glabra, the "Pignut," "Smoothbark Hickory," or "Broom Hickory." There are many of these along our street, and I'm pretty sure I've got the right hickory, as it's leaves are not aromatic when crushed ("Mockernut" or "White Hickory") and it doesn't have shaggy bark (Shagbark, "Scalybark," or "Shellbark" Hickory). It mostly has five leaflets, but I saw one or two twigs with seven leaflets. Its wood has been has been used historically to make brooms, wagon wheels and loom picker sticks, and is still used for tool handles and skis.