Category: Trees

Seventh Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

Kousa Dogwood – Cornus kousa​

While it might be one of the smaller trees in Bayne Park, the Kousa Dogwood stands out beautifully against the contrasting red-brick building with its vase-shape and horizontal branches filled with a generous bounty of green leaves.

Kousa Dogwood typically flowers mid-May through June. What appears to be pointed flower petals are actually modified leaves called bracts. The four bracts surround the cluster of tiny green inconspicious flowers. Another example of bracts that you may be familiar with are the red modified leaves (bracts) that surround the tiny yellow flowers on a poinsettia.

The flowers and surrounding bracts occur atop tall upward-facing stems which raise them above the foliage giving the Kousa Dogwood tree the appearance of having been delicately decorated with frosting. These stems are most easily viewed from below.

It is interesting to note that the leaf veins curve parallel to the shape of the leaf edges. The leaf edges are smooth and each leaf tapers to a point.

Look closely beneath a leaf and you will surprisingly see yellowish tufts and longer dark strands that resemble hair. These hair-like structures are botanically known as trichomes. They can insulate the leaves to help keep frost away from delicate plant cells, they can help reduce evaporation by shielding the leaves from heat and wind, and they can provide protection from some herbivorous insects.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program for a Dad Joke:  What tree has the most bark? (Based on the theme of this post I think you can discern the answer!) As the tree ages the bark develops an exfoliating character, revealing multi-hued mosaic-like patterns.

Reddish fruits appear on long stems in late summer through early autumn resembling raspberries. The spherical fleshy fruit, ranging from 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter, is believed to have evolved to appeal to monkeys living in China and Japan. Fortunately there are many species of birds that will feast upon them, and squirrels eat the fruits as well. Fruits landing on the ground may ferment and attract yellow jackets.

The Kousa Dogwood tree is a nectar source for the American Snout Butterfly shown in the beautiful image above by Renee Grayson. They camouflage themselves by perching on a branch while holding their antennae and prominent elongated mouthparts called palps downward like a stem. This posture allows them to blend in and evade predators by appearing to be a dead leaf. Imagine looking at what you thought was a dead leaf, only to see it fly away as a butterfly. Nature is full of surprises!

What do you see in the branches of our Kousa Dogwood tree? With an abundance of leaves that provide shade, wind protection, and cover from rain, the Kousa Dogwood provides a highly attractive nesting site for songbirds. I watched as a Robin flew into the nest presumably to incubate several blue eggs.

The three robin’s eggs shown above are from a nest in my yard in 2018. Eventually there should be some fledgling robins hopping around Bayne Park learning to fly!

Kousa Dogwood differs from the Eastern North American Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) which has rounded rather than pointed bracts, and blooms on leafless branches weeks prior to the Kousa Dogwood’s blooms which appear on branches full of leaves. The green leaves create a beautiful backdrop to the elevated blooms of the Kousa Dogwood.

Small but mighty, the Kousa Dogwood contributes to the beauty of the landscape of Bayne Park year-round.  In spring, the profusion of star-like blooms dazzles the eye.  In summer, shade is provided by the layered branches covered in vibrant green leaves. Autumn coincides with the showy spectacle of bright red fruit and rich maroon foliage.  Winter showcases the patterned bark which stands out beautifully against pristine white snow.

Book Recommendations:

It is the perfect time of year to consult Cass Turnbull’s Guide to Pruning to learn what, when, and where to prune for a more beautiful garden.

On the topic of bird nests, Egg & Nest features photography by Rosamond Purcell. This delightful book is brimming with images that capture the intricacy of nests and the nuances of bird eggs.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our Kousa Dogwood tree at Bayne Park today. We hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees. Once Bayne Park reopens, we encourage you to visit the trees in person.

Check back every Treesday Tuesday for the next virtual installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park!

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Sixth Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

Japanese Zelkova Tree – Zelkova serrata

If you have ever enjoyed listening to a concert being performed on the porch of Bayne Library you may have been sitting beneath our Japanese Zelkova tree with its spreading branches and delicate pendulous foliage framing the view. The photograph above features Ridgemont High‘s performance in June of 2019.

Japanese Zelkova, which also goes by the common name Keaki, is native to Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. It was introduced to America in 1862 prior to when our library building was first built as the home of James Madison Balph and Amanda Balph (formerly Bayne) in 1875.

There is a lot to love about the Japanese Zelkova tree as it provides an abundance of shade and has a graceful romantic form. In addition to being known for its hardiness as it is tolerant of drought, heat, wind, and urban conditions, Japanese Zelkova has been promoted as a substitute for the American Elm tree due to its resistance to Dutch Elm disease. The only drawback is that it does not attract or support much wildlife as it is not native to our region.

The Zelkova tree is Monoecious, which means the tree has male flowers and female flowers in separate structures on the same tree. The above photograph by Kenpei shows the tiny inconspicuous flowers. They are difficult to notice as they are yellow-green and occur in tight groups along new stems. The female flowers give rise to small wingless drupes that ripen in late summer to autumn eventually maturing to brown.

Leaves are simple and alternate with sharply serrated margins. Zelkova leaves can differ in size on the same tree depending on the type of twig and its position in the crown. Fruiting shoots tend to produce smaller leaves with shallow indentions at the serrated edges while vegetative shoots tend to have larger leaves with coarser indentions.

The mature brown drupes often fall attached to the entire twig, with the leaves functioning as a parachute to carry the drupes containing the seeds away from the tree.

Autumn coloration varies, it can range from subtle golden hues to attractive shades of yellow-orange to reddish-brown. 

The bark is typically grayish-brown to grayish-white with numerous lenticels which are small pores through the protective outer bark that allow gas exchange between the living tissue of the inner bark and the surrounding air. The young bark remains smooth for many years but eventually with age it exfoliates into patches revealing the orange inner bark.

Japanese Zelkova wood is valued in Japan and used often used to create Tansu which is traditional mobile storage cabinetry. The wood is renowned for its beautifully dynamic wavy grain and bright yet calming color.

Japanese Zelkova wood is also considered ideal for the creation of taiko drums (like the one shown above photographed by Steve Evans) due to the wood’s hardness and density which gives the drum its particular tone.

Japanese Zelkova tree trunks are hollowed out and carefully chiseled into the shape of a drum. Once the wood has been aged and the exterior has been thinned down to refine the shape using hand-tools, the inner shell is finally carved with precise patterns that are incredibly ornate.  

These beautiful patterns effect the resonance and timbre of the drum. Learn more and take a look at the intricate patterns concealed within taiko drums.  ​

In addition, Japanese Zelkova trees are also popular as bonsai specimens.

Book Recommendation:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees – Eastern Region by Elbert L. Little contains color images of bark and leaves in addition to copious information about each tree type in regards to description, habitat, and range.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our Zelkova tree at Bayne Park today. We hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees and we encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

Check back every Treesday Tuesday for the next virtual installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park!

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Fifth Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

London Plane Tree – Platanus x acerifolia​

Bayne Park’s London Plane tree can be found at the edge of the parking lot near the gazebo with long limbs outstretching towards Bayne Library. It is easily recognizable during any season due to the exfoliating bark which makes its trunk and branches look as if they are covered in military camouflage.

The London Plane tree is a hybrid between two tree species, the American Sycamore and the Oriental Plane tree.  Exactly how this combination of species from widely divergent parts of the globe occurred is lost to time, but we do know that the London Plane trees were praised for their ability to tolerate the nastiest smog and grime of London during the Industrial Revolution, and thus they became a hardy option for city and park trees.

 The London Plane tree is so similar in appearance to its American parent the Sycamore, its identity is frequently mistaken.

The flaking bark peels away in sections or sheets, leaving a dappled trunk. This occurs because the bark lacks elasticity. 

Pealing bark helps to clears away pollution that would otherwise block gas exchange through the lenticels, which are small pores through the protective outer bark that allow gas exchange between the living tissue of the inner bark and the surrounding air.

In addition to helping the tree eliminate harmful insects and parasites, the exfoliating bark also discourages vines from overtaking the tree.

New leaves in spring are tomentose (covered in a white layer of matted wooly down) which can persist on the bottom surface of the leaf, with the top of the leaf developing and otter-like sleekness as it ages. The sleekness limits the attachment of dirt and grime onto the leaf surface and allows rain to easily rinse away anything that does attach. This optimizes photosynthesis and the health of the tree.

Female flowers give way to fuzzy spherical fruiting balls, about the size of a ping pong ball, which typically hangs in pairs from long pendulous stalks.  They ripen to brown in October and can last into winter. Each fruiting ball consists of numerous, densely-packed, tiny seed-like fruits called achenes.  As time progresses, the fruiting balls disintegrate as wind disperses their seeds, often in downy tufts. The seeds provide food for wildlife such as Carolina Chickadees, American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Mallard Ducks, Beavers, Muskrats and Squirrels.​

The leaves of the London Plane tree turn a beautiful yellow hue in the autumn.  When the leaves fall look at the base of the petioles, the stalk that joins a leaf to a stem, to see the cup-shaped end which concealed the bud. As the bud increased in size it forced the leaf to fall.

The London Plane tree is valued greatly for its shade and majestic stature, while the wood creates highly sought after lacewood when quarter-sawn. The lacy pattern is due to its cellular structures of medullary rays that reveal dark reddish-brown flecks against a lighter background. Lacewood is used in many fine woodworking projects such as carving, turning, inlays, furniture, and even architectural elements.

Book Recommendation:

Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees by Arborist William Bryant Logan, who trained forty London Plane trees in the central plaza in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art using a historic pruning technique known as pollarding. The technique allows maximum sun penetration in the winter to warm the plaza and maximum shade in the summer for cooling, and also limits the height of the trees to maintain the view of the building facade.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our London Plane tree at Bayne Park today. We hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees and we encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

Check back every Treesday Tuesday for the next virtual installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park!

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Fourth Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

Common Persimmon – Diospyros virginiana

The first part of the Persimmon tree’s latin name Diospyros loosely translates to mean divine fruit. Upon seeing the gloriously glowing orange-hued fruit you may be tempted to take a bite, only to find that your taste experience will differ dramatically depending on the ripeness of the Persimmon.

Captain John Smith of the Jamestown Colony established in 1607 warns, “If it be not ripe, it will draw a man’s mouth awrie with much torment.”

His statement perfectly characterizes the astringent puckering effect of the tannin contained in the unripened fruit.  

Persimmon trees once stood along Lincoln Avenue.  In the Bellevue Centennial Book, page thirteen features a delightful commentary of local children sharing the fruit with their cousins visiting from the city. ​ 

“When our city cousins came to visit, with their insidious comparisons between city and country ways, our means of retaliation was to escort them to these trees (Persimmon) for a taste…they always choose the plump fruit while we took the squashy.  Our resulting glee may have been diabolic, but fun!”

The fruits of the Common Persimmon are similar in form to tomatoes and roughly the size of a ping-pong ball. You may have seen larger Persimmon fruits like ‘Fuyu’ and ‘Hachiya’ in the store, these are from other varieties of Persimmon trees. Like the tomato, the Persimmon fruit is a true berry containing as many as eight seeds in its pale translucent flesh. 

When ripe, the texture and mouthfeel of the Persimmon fruit is similar to the flesh of a very ripe apricot with a nearly inscrutable nuanced flavor reminiscent of dutch applesauce. An elaborate spice combination called speculaaskruiden flavors dutch applesauce containing a blend of cloves, cinnamon, ginger, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, anise, and white pepper.  

The Persimmon fruit serves as a not so gentle reminder that patience is a virtue and that good things come to those who wait!

Bayne Park’s Persimmon tree (which I fondly refer to as Richard Persimmons in honor of the 80’s fitness guru) is located in the southern portion of the park and is most easily recognized by its bark when there is not a dusty orange profusion of fruit dangling from the drooping branches. The bark surface is deeply cut into small scaly plates or blocks which look similar to lumps of coal.

The Persimmon leaves are elliptic in shape and are dark green and shiny on top and paler green underneath.

Fragrant, small, white to greenish-yellow flowers bloom in late spring.  The light and powdery pollen is generally distributed by bees but it can also be carried great distances by the wind.

Possums, Raccoons, Skunks, Deer, and birds like Catbirds, American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, and Mockingbirds feed upon the fruit. 

The Persimmon can also serve as a host trees for the Luna Moth, if you are lucky you may spot a female Luna Moth laying brownish eggs in small groups on the underside of one of the Persimmon’s large leaves.

Persimmon wood is used for turned objects, golf club heads, veneer, shuttles in the textile industry, billiard cues, and musical instruments.

During the1993 Masters Bernhard Langer claimed his second Masters win, he was the last player to win a major using a Persimmon driver.​

Book Recommendation:

Who could resist mouthwatering recipes for Persimmon Hickory Nut Bread, Roasted Persimmon Salad Dressing, Persimmon Pudding, and Persimmon Nut Chiffon Pie?  Find these recipies and much more in Eating Appalachia: Rediscovering Regional American Flavors by Darrin Nordahl. It is the perfect book to explore all the unique flavorful foods that are native to our region. 

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our Persimmon tree at Bayne Park today. Although Bayne Park is currently closed, we hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees and we encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

Check back every Treesday Tuesday for the next virtual installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park!

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Third Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

River Birch – Betula nigra

The River Birch is easily recognized with its attractive rust and buff colored textural peeling bark that provides the perfect backdrop for its golden hued autumn leaves. The leaves are double serrated, wedge-shaped, and sharp pointed. The lower leaf surface is a lighter color than the upper surface which creates a dazzling display of shimmering contrasts when the wind flutters the leaves.

One of the wondrous aspects of trees, is that they attract a variety of wildlife. Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers drill holes into the bark of River Birch trees in their quest for…you guessed it…sap!

Sap wells made by these Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers attract squirrels, insects, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. I keep the color-coded field guide Birds of Pennsylvania by Stan Tekiela on my window sill which is an excellent reference to help identify birds!

The River Birch is the host tree for the Morning Cloak Butterfly. You may observe the caterpillar dining on the leaves as it grows.

Some birds have been known to use strips of the peeling bark in the construction of their nests, and many birds delight in finding insects to eat amid the delicately rumpled bark.

The River Birch is monoecious, with both male and female flowers borne separately on the same tree. On the left below you can see the male flower bud and the dangling male flower catkin. The female flowers are short, conical, and woolly which ultimately form into the green cone shaped fruit called strobiles. The seeds in the fruit, called nutlets, are dispersed by the wind and water once the strobile has become dry and turned brown.

The River Birch is often planted ornamentally, like the tree at Bayne Park. In the wilderness, the River Birch is important as a pioneer species as it quick to colonize disturbed areas and is excellent at controlling erosion. It thrives along river banks and uses a clever method along with special timing to distribute its seeds most efficiently. Most trees (including other birches) produce their seeds in late summer or autumn, but the River Birch is ahead of the game when its seeds ripen in May and June. Perfect timing as the seeds are swiftly moved by the high water which floats them downstream where they can germinate the very same season.

The seeds are also a food source for nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, sparrows, towhees, tanagers, grosbeaks, cardinals and finches.

As you know in April we celebrate National Poetry Month! Although my favorite Robert Frost poem is After Apple-Picking, he also wrote the poem Birches the topic of Birch trees. As he mentions a snow-white trunk in the poem we know he was referring to Paper Birch trees. I recommend the book A Swinger of Birches: poems of Robert Frost for Young People for children ages 4-10 as it includes poems about birds, trees, flowers, people, and land with full color full page illustrations. Adults will enjoy the book Early Poems by Robert Frost.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our River Birch tree at Bayne Park today. Although Bayne Park is currently closed, we hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees and we encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

Check back for the next post in this weekly series every Treesday Tuesday!

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Second Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

Horse Chestnut – Aesculus hippocastanum

In 1920 twelve trees were planted in Bayne Park as a memorial to the 11 soldiers and 1 nurse from Bellevue who served and died during WWI.  In 1921 three more trees were planted and plaques were attached to all 15 trees to commemorate the fallen heros of Bellevue. Although the record does not define the type of tree planted, it is likely the original 12 trees were Horse Chestnut trees that line both sides of the walkway through the park.

The common name for this tree may have come from the historic use of its seeds to treat horses for overexertion, colic, and coughs in Turkey and Greece. In addition, the scar remaining on the twig when the leaves fall resembles the shape of a horseshoe complete with nail holes.  

The buds of the Horse Chestnut are renowned for being sticky. The stickiness helps hold the huge bud together and provides water resistance. Once the sun warms and the bud opens you can see the leaves and the structure of the distinctive flower that were once held within the bud. 

Known for providing shade and being ornamental, the flowers of the Horse Chestnut grow in tall spikes (or panicles) during the spring creating a showy candelabra display of delicate pink and white flowers.  The flowers stand upright similar to candles on a Christmas tree.

Blossoms emerge white with yellow in the center, but the blossom center turns from yellow to pink once it is pollinated. The white flower below has a pink center indicating like a stoplight to insects that it has been pollinated.

The leaves are palmately compound, in the drawing below you are seeing one leaf comprised of 7 leaflets.  Palmate is defined as having several lobes (typically 5 or 7) whose midribs all radiate from one point. By thinking of the palm of your hand with fingers spread out wide, you can remember the general form of a palmate leaf.    

Hard spiny fruit the size of golfballs fall to the ground, and they split in October to release the shiny brown seeds known as conkers overseas. They are used in a popular game where a conker is threaded onto a strong leather cord and then each contestant attempts to break their opponent’s conker by hitting it with their own. There is even a World Conker Championship in the United Kingdom within the picturesque county of Northamptonshire, in the village of Southwick.​ 

Horse Chestnuts are poisonous to humans, do not eat them!

It you find yourself inspired by the beauty of the Horse Chestnut tree, you can admire it from within your own home by decorating with wallpaper featuring the unique flower panicles and compound palmate leaves!

I recommend the powerful picture book The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window written by Jeff Gottesfeld and illustrated by Peter McCarty. Told from the perspective of the Horse Chestnut tree outside Anne Frank’s window, this book introduces her story in a gentle way to a young audience.  The tree died the summer Anne Frank would have turned eighty-one, but its seeds and saplings have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our Horse Chestnut trees at Bayne Park today. Although Bayne Park is currently closed, we hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees! We encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

As we intend for this to become a weekly series, check back for a new post next Treesday Tuesday!

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First Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

Kanzan Cherry – Prunus serrulata ‘Kanzan’ ​

Kanzan is a old Japanese word from classical poetry, meaning bordering the mountain.  It evokes memories of the ideal picturesque village with mountain backdrop having an almost sorrowful nostalgic meaning of, “I remember the little village of my youth.”​

With attractive deep-pink double flowers, the Kanzan Cherry tree is glorious during its profuse and showy spring bloom. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most ornamental of the flowering cherries.  I think from the photograph you can see why!​  Kanzan Cherry is known for being a late bloomer, in 2019 the tree started to show blossoms during the week of April 15th. 

The bark of the Kanzan Cherry tree is thin, smooth, reddish to bronze, and glossy with very prominent horizontal lenticels.​  Lenticels allow gas exchange between the air and internal tissues. The leaves have a serrated edge and are often reddish-copper as they emerge, turning dark green by summer, and finally yellow, orange, or bronze in the autumn.  

In August of 2019 we were delighted to find a finger sized bright green Polyphemus moth caterpillar climbing one of the branches.  Cherry trees are considered host trees for that species of caterpillar.  It is likely the caterpillar hatched from an egg that a female moth laid on a leaf of the tree and it had been eating leaves to grow and in preparation to spin a silk cocoon so that it could undergo metamorphosis and become a moth!  

Polyphemus Moth – Stephen Lody Photography

Now is the perfect time to enjoy cherry tree blossoms in all of their glory, so I recommend visiting the Pittsburgh Sakura Project website to find a map showing where you can see up to ten different types of cherry trees at North Park.  The word sakura means flowering cherry tree.  Please maintain social distancing while walking and wear appropriate shoes some areas of North Park can be quite muddy. Bring binoculars and a magnifying glass for a more in-depth experience. 

Take a look at some books on the topic of cherry trees.  I recommend Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston and illustrated by Misa Saburi for children, and for adults The Sakura Obsession: The Incredible Story of the Plant Hunter Who Saved Japan’s Cherry Blossoms by Naoko Abe. 

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting a Kanzan Cherry Tree at Bayne Park today. Although Bayne Park is currently closed, we hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees! We encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

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