Tree Species Descriptions
1. Ironwood/American hornbeam: Carpinus caroliniana
Ironwoods usually grow 20-35 feet tall in partial to full shade. Male trees bloom green and females bloom white during the month of February. Requires little maintenance and can grow in average, medium moisture soil. Distinguished by strong, muscled trunk. There is one ironwood in our plot.
2. Northern Catalpa: Catalpa speciosa
Northern catalpas are medium-sized trees (50-80 feet tall, 2 ½ feet in diameter) that are very adaptable to different environments and are widely planted as ornamental trees. Their broad, textured, trumpet-shaped leaves have hairy undersides and resemble those of Eastern redbuds, which is why they were difficult for us to differentiate at first. Their bark, however, is very distinct: brown/gray in color, the bark matures into hard plates or ridges over time. The wood of this tree is soft and light and does not rot easily, which has made it an attractive material for carving and boatbuilding. In landscaping efforts, this tree often outgrows its allotted space and crowds out or casts too much shade on other plants. There are 3 in our plot.
3. Mockernut Hickory: Carya tomentosa
Mockernut hickories grow abundantly in the eastern United States, where they prefer humid climates and deep, fertile soils. They tend to be straight-growing, their wood strong and their ages reaching up to 500 years. Mockernut Hickories can grow to be 50-80 feet tall and approximately 2 feet in diameter. Also called White Hickory due to the light color of their wood, these trees are identifiable by their leaves, which alternate and tend to be bigger at the end of the branches than at the basal leaflets. The undersides of mockernut hickory leaves are hairy, which is another way to identify them. There are four mockernut hickories in our plot.
4. Eastern Redbud: Cercis canadensis
Eastern redbuds are the most abundant tree species in our plot, where we counted 23. (That’s 38% of our total count!). They typically grow 20-30 ft tall, have a diameter of ~20cm, have twisted trunks that sometimes split very close to the ground, and have spreading branches. We easily identified eastern redbuds based on their leaves (which are alternating and heart-shaped) and their bark, which is dark and has scaly plates and knots on it. Eastern redbuds are very common in southern Appalachia, where they tend to grow in mixed forests and hedgerows. This tree is also often planted as an ornamental tree since it becomes thickly covered by pink flowers in the spring.
5. Winged elm: Ulmus alata
These small trees usually cap off around 13m tall and have rounded or pyramidal crowns. Their leaves are loose-hanging, small, and oval-shaped. Winged elms tend to be less shade-tolerant than other North American elms, but they are tolerant of a wide range of soils. Winged elms are very susceptible to Dutch Elm Disease and are occasionally considered a nuisance by landscapers. There is one winged elm in our plot.
6. White Oak: Quercus alba
White oaks, which are native to eastern North America and tend to reach very old ages (hundreds of years) are distinguished from red oaks by their lobed leaves, with middle lobes being the widest and tapering towards the stems. Leaves turn red-brown in the fall. They have wide-spreading branches and have a “rounded crown.” The trees can reach heights of 80-100 feet or more and grow to diameters of 3-4+ feet. The bark of these trees is usually gray/brown (not white), deeply furrowed, and shaggier towards the top. The White Oak is one of the most important lumber trees in the Oak family and is regularly used to make barrels for whiskey and other liquids. There are 3 in our plot.
7. White Ash: Fraxinus americana
White ash trees are common in Battle Park and mostly found in moist upland areas, whereas green ashes tend to be found in wet forests, floodplains and swamps. White Ashes can reach heights of 80 feet and diameters of 2 feet at maturity. Their strong, straight-grained wood is often used for furniture and flooring, tool handles, and baseball bats. White ashes are susceptible to damage from the emerald ash borer, a green beetle native to Asia that now threatens to kill most of the ash trees in North America. As opposed to hickories, where the end leaflets are usually larger than the basal leaflets, ash leaflets are similar in size and shape, and the undersides of their leaves tend to be pale grey/bluish green in color. There are 7 in our plot.
8. Flowering Dogwood: Cornus florida.
The dogwood is North Carolina's state flower.Usually no more than 30ft tall and 1 foot in diameter, flowering dogwoods are prevalent in eastern North America. Dogwood flowers have 4 cream-colored petals with green-yellow clusters in their axils, and the trees are often found in forest edges and dry ridges where the soil is moist and acid and sunlight can reach the flowers. There is one lone dogwood in our plot.
9. American Beech: Fagus grandfiloia
American beech trees can grow fairly tall (70-115 ft) but have slow growth rates, and the ones in our plot are relatively small. Beech trees are identifiable based on their leaf shapes, which have toothed edges, smooth surfaces, and a paper-like texture. The bark is gray-colored and smooth. American beeches are shade-tolerant and are commonly found in old forests along with trees like the sugar maple. There are two American beeches in our plot.
10. Tulip Poplar: Liriodendron tulipifera
The Tulip Poplar, also known as “Tulip tree” or “Yellow Poplar,” is native to North America and is known for its distinctive, four-lobed leaf shape. These trees grow rapidly in moist, well-drained soils and on slopes. They tend to be rather large, with heights ranging from 80-120 feet and diameters of 2 to 3 feet - though there are some exceptions, such as the Poplar near our plot (which is almost 4’ diameter, 55 ft tall!). Tulip Poplar bark becomes deeply furrowed with age and is a dark grey color. The leaves are a medium to dark green in the spring and summer, turning yellow or yellowish-brown in the fall. This tree was originally used for making canoes and their “soft” wood is rather valuable. There are 4 in our plot.
11. Red Maple: Acer rubrum
The Red Maple can grow to be a rather large tree with a rounded crown. The Red Maple is known and named for its red twigs and red coloration in the fall. This species can grow to be 60-90 feet high and 2 ½ feet in diameter. The leaves are identified as being saw-toothed with three short-pointed lobes. Historically, this species was commonly used by pioneers to make inks and dyes from the bark. Red Maples have the greatest north-south distribution of any tree species along the East Coast. It is also a common food source for white-tailed deer. There are five in our plot.
12. Black gum (black tupelo): Nyssa sylvatica
Black gum trees tend to have straight trunks, with branches extending outwards at right angles. When young, their bark is dark gray, flaky, and paper-like; when older, the bark becomes furrowed like alligator skin. Their leaves are often oval-shaped but can be elliptical or narrower at the ends. Black gums turn purple and scarlet during autumn and the tree flowers in May/June when the leaves are half-grown. There are three black gum trees in our plot. The largest - one of the border trees- was difficult to identify because it is much bigger than the other black gums in our plot and has more mature bark. (It looked like an ash tree to us at first.)
Sugar Maple: Acer saccharum (not shown)
The Sugar Maple is a rather familiar tree due to its leaf’s popular association with the Canadian flag (even though the leaf on the flag is not an exact representation). This species of maple can grow to heights of 70-100 feet and diameters of 2-3 feet. Its leaves are long and wide and have five long-pointed lobes and a few long-pointed teeth. This tree turns into a brilliant collage of colors in the fall, with leaves turning red, orange, and yellow. Sugar Maples are the most popular wood used as furniture due to the variation of its grain. Its sap is also the commercial source of maple sugar and syrup. There are 3 in our plot.