11, 2003 10:17 PDT
When it comes to trees, we all have our likes and dislikes. I
quite a dislike for flowering dogwoods because they don't smash
They often got caught in the tracks of my bulldozer, and would
slap you or
get jammed in the hydraulics if you didn't push them well out of
I suppose it's easiest to start with one's favorite trees, and
what's left. In ranking the native trees of Anne Arundel County,
positively to trees that display a pleasing structure, interact
seasons, have interesting features or historical associations,
promote some enthusiastic comments on a field trip.
Anyway, here goes:
1. Sour gum
4. American beech
5. White oak
6. Black walnut
8. Downy serviceberry
10. American chestnut
11. Scarlet oak
12. Atlantic white cedar
13. American holly
15. Hercules club
17. Red maple
19. Saul oak
21. Chestnut oak
22. Mountain laurel
23. Eastern redcedar
24. Shortleaf pine
25. American sycamore
26. Virginia pine
27. Flowering dogwood
28. Red mulberry
30. Winged sumac
31. Southern red oak
32. Sweetbay magnolia
33. Swamp chestnut oak
34. American hornbeam
35. Black locust
36. Loblolly pine
37. Northern red oak
39. Whorled winterberry
40. Poison sumac
41. Willow oak
42. Bigtooth aspen
43. Black oak
44. Post oak
45. Blackjack oak
48. Witch hazel
50. Pitch pine
51. Staghorn sumac
53. Sand hickory
54. River birch
55. Cherrybark oak
56. Slippery elm
57. American elm
58. Hazel alder
59. Black cherry
60. Smooth sumac
61. Pin oak
62. White ash
63. Silver maple
64. Black willow
11, 2003 11:20 PDT
Wow!!!! We really have something interesting
to work with. Any
particular reason white ash is so low on the totem pole?
11, 2003 12:07 PDT
Sorry about your beloved white ash, "the queen of the
forest," as I've seen
Our favorite trees should have some outstanding features -
flower, form, or an air of fantasy. Sure, I like white ash bark,
but it's a
gawky tree, with no nuance of outline, and ignores the seasons,
indecisive foliage prematurely. Height, snaths and baseball bats
11, 2003 12:29 PDT
Good answer. Your quick wit and devilishness
is what this list is all
When Jani and I first moved to New England, I
had my first real taste
of the white ash. Its initially brown to light purple fall color
changing to a pleasant shade of yellow attracted my attention. I
the tree, but I must confess, it seemed to make an
didn't exude power like oaks. The variagated color reminded me
little of the sweetgum. I observed that forest-grown specimens
graceful in form when viewed with comparisons in mind. When
about similarly shaped species, their profiles made
them look like a
wannabe American elms. I also observed that as a field tree, the
usually looked awkward and very asymmetrical. Rather blah. The
seemed to have a dual personality. Eventually I discovered the
ash trees in Mohawk and become an unabashed admirer of the
If you could see the white ash trees of Ash
and Indian Flats in the
height of autumn on a sunny day, I bet the ash would go up at
few notches on the list.
Next question. Given the silver maple's
silvery leaves, which can be
quite eye-catching in wind, what pushes it down so far on the
Next question. Why the American elm so far
down? It has been the
classic ornamental shade tree in so many northern and
Colby's List Analyzed
11, 2003 13:36 PDT
Yes, how we see trees is a very personal experience. One sees a
opposite-budded, heavy-twigged white ash with matted branches,
and they look
like another "dirty" urban tree. The deep-checked
light bark on a tall
trunk in the slanting rays of early autumn is something else.
Although the elms had a wonderful symmetry, and the silver
(like those on your lawn) is quite handsome, neither do much in
Both, often oversized in the residential environment, are
associated with problems, either disease or structural. There's
no magic in
the bark, and the wood, wet and often smelly, contibuted little
hubs and sewer lumber. Today, both former denizens of the
problem trees. Perhaps it's unfair, but I don't bemoan the
disappearance of either species. That's quite a contrast with
sorrow I've felt regarding the American chestnut.
List Analyzed-Part II
11, 2003 16:38 PDT
To what extent do you feel we are influenced by the role a tree
fulfilling a traditional role of value (lumber, food) in shaping
perceptions of worth? The silver maple growing in a riparian
zone is probably
at its most useful in its ecological role. As a shade tree or
has deficiencies. Would the silver maple move up your list if
you thought about
it in its ecological role? I'm not trying to get you to change
your mind. Just
Colby's List Analyzed-Part II
11, 2003 17:41 PDT
If I lived in a different state or county, my exposure to
species would be in a different context, and I'd certainly feel
differently about some of them. If I simply ranked them
according to their
economic value, usefulness as ornamentals, or contributions to
might end up with a somewhat standardized ranking. Although many
might use that approach, it would be pretty boring.
As it is, I tried to avoid such an approach, and just ranked
local species according to how I happened to feel about them
lifetime of personal experiences. It's interesting to explore
selves later, and try to explain why we feel as we do.
So, when shall we see your list?
Black ash and beyond
11, 2003 21:35 PDT
Is there any better tree than the Sassafras or the Black Birch
through by bulldozers, for scent?
Black ash and beyond
12, 2003 04:59 PDT
My vote would be for sassafras # 1 but yellow poplar would be a
ash, sassafras, and beyond
12, 2003 05:52 PDT
Russ, Don, and Colby:
Sassafras is a cool tree. I love it because of
the shape of its leaf
and its aromatic root. My son makes a mean sassafras tea. But
tell us, Russ, what are your reasons for putting sassafras at
the top of
Incidentally, the tuliptree would rank very
high on any tree list I
might construct of favorites. More on Liriodendron later. I'm
cogitating on Colby's challenge to me to come forth with my own
favorites. Colby's a wiley one, he is. He saw clearly that I was
him into lots of input on his favorites while I stayed
mine. He didn't let me get away with it, though. I'd have to get
mighty early to pull one over on Colby and I suspect if I did
early, I'd find him sitting there with his coffee waiting and
Black ash and beyond
12, 2003 07:18 PDT
I can't top a sassafras stump for holding a pleasing aroma. Most
of our native woods have a pretty nice odor, with the exception
of sheepberry (Viburnum lentago). I once threw some from an old
ornamental planting into a big woodpile; after a week I couldn't
stand the smell anymore, and had to sort through the whole
Nearly as bad was sawing wet elm or weeping willow and getting
your trousers soaked. I suppose they were tapping sewer water or
something. My nose isn't very sensitive to any odor, but my wife
would run me out of the house immediately.
Black ash, sassafras, and beyond
13, 2003 04:28 PDT
In many areas of WV, especially areas where there was past
sassafras can be a very common pioneer species. It really isn't
timber...although its lumber has a grain that makes it an
for American chestnut in old furniture or antique restoration
Although I never encountered sassafras in MA larger than small
I have encountered it in the woods of WV up to 30" DBH and
tall....28" DBH is the biggest one at Crummies Creek.
Anyway, it seems like roads and skid trails are always being
patches of sassafras and the smell that exudes from the ground
when a bulldozer
passes through a patch of sassafras is one of the few truly
you are ever likely to encounter on a logging job....I would
rate it along with
the farming equivalent of fresh mowed hay...the only difference
is that the
sassafras smell dissipates in a few minutes while the fresh hay
linger for a couple hours.
Black ash, sassafras, and beyond
13, 2003 05:31 PDT
I haven't had the pleasure of enjoying the
heady fragrance of sassafras
permeating the surrounding air. I guess the most heady tree
fragrance I can
recall is ponderosa pine forest on a sunny day. Don Bertolette
tells me that as
good as ponderosa is, it pales in comparison to the scent of
It is interesting how natural fragrances
affect people differently,
especially city dwellers who sheild themselves as much as
possible from any
thing natural. Every year I look forward to the fragrance of the
bloom around the campus of Mercy Medical Center. Others
visitors, and patients may react differently, some as though the
smell were of
an alien and unidentifiable origin, or whincing as though the
smell was of
hideously cheap perfume. Still others react as though there were
wafting about at all. A few show surprise and a little pleasure.
Black ash, sassafras, and beyond
13, 2003 07:11 PDT
Nice thoughts. Indeed, life is an ecstasy, to be spent freely,
squandered well. Such moments leave a longer impression, to be
and shared, when possible. Here's ten:
To be a child in a world with good mudpuddles.
A leaf of jewelweed held underwater.
Poison ivy foliage on a locust snag on an October afternoon.
Cheating the binders on a good load of poplar.
Mockernut buds about to open.
The sensual suffusion of green in a pawpaw thicket.
Walking inside the ruins of a great chestnut trunk.
Holding a corner on a big oak.
A big strawberry bush in fruit.
Basswood in bloom with honeybees.
Black ash, sassafras, and beyond
13, 2003 07:25 PDT
Yes, one of the treats of following our John Deere dozer into
the night on way to fire was when bulldozer would pass through a
sassafrass patch...reminds me of a Peanuts cartoon, when Lucy
and Charlie Brown are sitting on a curb, and after the passing
of a breeze that lifted their noses airily, they murmurred
Black ash, sassafras, and beyond
13, 2003 07:36 PDT
There are few who can juxtapose chain binders and jewelweed with
but I suspect many on this list who can appreciate it. Kudos,
16, 2003 21:09 PDT
Colbyís list both intrigued me and caused some consternation. One
thing that bothered me the most was the idea that Colby had
different species of trees/shrubs according to some personal
I was not sure I could name 65 species without some thinking,
rank them. Certainly I would not recognize all of the species on
list. Another thing that bothered me was how could you possibly
list of trees in such detail? There are clearly some trees of
am fond. But how do you decide which is the favorite, which is
two, and on down the list? All of the trees I like have some
memory attached to them, or I simply admire their form. But as
all different and each has its own distinct features that are
readily comparable, I donít believe I can even start making a
my favorites. So I have decided to provide a brief note about a
or trees the trees of which I am fond, with no particular order.
Hemlock: Hemlocks look old. Even modest aged trees look ancient
their rough bark and broad drooping limbs. In the winter snow
atop them until the limbs drag on the ground. There may be two
snow on the ground, but under a good hemlock tree bare ground
be found. In the spring small bright green cones form on the
the branches. By autumn they turn a deep brown and open to
perfect miniature cones. Several surrounded my back yard as a
would look out in the winter and watch the hemlock branches
snow and reach for the ground. I would pull the branches back
the snow fly when I let go. The fate of the hemlocks in the face
wooly aegelid is particularly sad for me.
Sassafras: I remember a small sassafras tree in the woods below
house. When I was small one spring my dad gathered some
and made sassafras tea. I donít know that I particularly liked
the time. I put in lots of sugar. What was neat about it,
a small child, was I was drinking something made from tree
roots, from a
tree in my own woods. I always collected leaves and pressed
Sassafras was a goldmine. It didnít have just one shape, but
single finger, a mitten, a three fingered hand. If I looked hard
young shoots just out of the ground I could even find leaves
with 4, 5,
even up to 7 or more fingers. Many an hour was spent looking for
leaves with fingers.
Shagbark Hickory: My grandfather, my motherís father, owned a
his property near the house were several large hickory trees.
growing in an open field. They stood tall and broad
everything else. Magnificent specimens of trees. In my leaf
collections, it was one of the uncommon compound leaf specimens.
fall we would gather hickory nuts. Not a lot, but a few handfuls
eat. I would peal off the outer husk to reveal the nut inside,
would smash it with a hammer on the cement steps leading up to
porch. Eagerly I would pick up all the tiny fragments of the
the nut and eat them. A lot of work for a small reward, but
Chestnut Oak: Around the periphery of my yard are a number of
oaks- a chestnut oak, several white oaks, and a red oak. All of
oaks are nice trees. The chestnut oak stands out in particular
the girth of the tree was so much greater than the others. All
biggest diameter trees in the woods near my home were chestnut
a child I would gather up the acorns, looking for the most
the biggest acorns, oak leaf galls. I would look at them,
save them, most often fling them into the woods. The old
on the corner of my yard blew down in a storm a few years ago.
dying and broke off at a weak spot about 20 feet up. One of the
oak, part of a matched pair of double trunked tree, a fixture of
childhood dreams died, and had to be cut down a couple of years
Still these trees left a lasting impression in my memories.
Green Gage Plum: Purists may argue that only native trees are
appropriate for a list of favorite trees, but I would disagree.
was an old green Gage Plum tree in the back of my
This was my other grandfather. It would have bright white
the spring, at least I remember them as white. In the fall it
have the juiciest plums you ever ate. I included this as a
representative of all the old fruit trees from my childhood- the
tree at my other grandparents house, the ancient looking and
northern spy apple tree up on the hill. I am sure many of the
have a favorite old fruit tree in their minds.
Sugar Maple: Sugar maple is a fine tree. There are some in the
around my house, but the ones that come to mind when I think of
maple grew outside my grandparents house along the side of the
Big thick trunks, broad canopy. In the spring the whirligig
falling from the sky. I think of this even more than the bright
colors. There are the tiny red flowers of the spring. Sadly most
these trees are gone now. A victim of age and electric line
Tulip Tree: A tulip tree grows in my lower yard aside a large
has a thick trunk and stands tall. How big a girth does the tree
and how tall is the tree? I donít know I never measured. It
to me as a child, and still seems big. Not perhaps gigantic, but
respectably big. The leaves of the tulip tree can be quite
would look for the biggest leaves and find ones too big to fit
notebook pages of my leaf collection. In the spring would be big
flowers yellow, green, and orange lying on the ground below the
Cones of unripened green seeds. Later myriads of whirling seed
fall, each with their little triangular seed head. In the fall
leaves turn bright golden yellow. Yellow and brown leaves of
cover the ground below the tree.
White Pine: Some people donít like white pines. I think that
negative reaction to the fact they are the tallest trees in the
people root against the favorite and for the underdog. I like
pine. Atop the hill behind my house was always a grove of big
pines. It formed a small clearing 60 - 70 feet across. Teenagers
go there and camp out in the summer. It was not more than a half
along the trail, no more than 1/4 mile as the crow flies from my
But as a small child, a trip to ďThe PinesĒ was a big
expedition that I
took often. You could lay on the ground and watch them stretch
sky it seemed. They are gone now. They were cut down a few years
by a timbering operation- likely what everyone is calling a
operation. The same timbering took a beautiful big chestnut oak
some big sandstone blocks. These are a few hundred yards from my
and were know as the ďIndian Rocks.Ē As a child I would
almost everyday in the summer and probably at least once a week
of the year. I donít go there often anymore, because what
sad. Perhaps as the bits of dead trees that I long remember
time, it will again be a place to visit, but the big trees will
Yellow Birch: The yellow birch around here are small trees, a
in diameter. What stands out about the tree is the bright yellow
of autumn with their fine serrated edge. Almost like a million
hacksaw blades moving with the wind, and drifting to the ground.
Black Gum: Black gum is not a spectacular tree. Here they are
the first to change colors in the autumn. And What colors they
They turn a bright red orange, almost fluorescent in color.
bold against the green background of other trees that have not
Mountain Laurel: Each summer in Brookville, a small town near
Forest, they have a Laurel festival in the second week of June.
remember going to the festival as a kid with my Aunt Isabel and
Josephine. One of the highlights of the festival is a tour of
company laurel fields. A natural gas company owns a piece of
few miles from Brookville. The patch of land is bounded by
growth forest and old fields. The laurel field itself is
hundreds of large laurel bushes. Everything but a few specimen
have been cleared. At the height of the bloom, every bush is a
pink and white flowers. There are so many flowers it is often
see the shiny green leaves of the plant. Those in the brightest
the most pink, those in the shade are palest white. I have
past few years to see the laurel bloom. At my home cleared most
under brush has been cleared from the wooded area surrounding my
Left behind by the clearing are all the laurel bushes,
wild honeysuckle. I donít have as spectacular of a show as at
laurel fields, but it is nice in the spring.
Rhododendron: Rhododendron essentially looks like a larger
version of mountain laurel. We have several specimens in the
around my home. In the spring it also produces b looms of
They bloom a little later than laurel, generally around the end
In fact because of the wet weather this summer, in late August a
shaded rhododendron bushes in Cook Forest still had white
remember as a child riding down an old dirt road on the way to
swimming hole in Sandy lick Creek.. Rhododendron hung down over
sides of the road, with big green leaves and white flowers in
Chestnut: Around the turn of the century the American Chestnut
died out. I have always been fascinated by the small sprouts of
chestnut still struggling to grow after all these years. There
a modest sized chestnut tree growing on the hillside behind my
Perhaps it is rooting for the underdog that makes me fond of the
species. I have a roofed deck on the back of my house. My dad
when I was a teenager. We went out into the woods and salvaged
logs and branches from the long dead chestnuts to make a rustic
for out deck and as posts to support the roof. It
is amazing that so
many of these dead husks are still standing after these years,
the bright rust colored decayed wood and filling their centers.
Cucumber Tree: I originally liked this tree because when I was
thought it was neat that a tree had the same name as a
think of this whenever I see one, so hence its presence on this
Quaking Aspen: A very nice tree to just sit and watch. With
breeze the leaves shake and quiver. Light bounces from the
shines through them in an ever changing pattern. This constant
gives the tree a feeling a dynamic creature, contrasting with
passivity of most trees. That is as good of a reason as any to
This is my contribution and interpretation to the listing of
17, 2003 06:17 PDT
Excellent post. In the full ENTS spirit. Thanks.
Actually, Ed, you fell into Colby's trap. He's a wiley one, he
I've abandoned the idea of ever pulling a fast one on Colby.
In showing us such an imposing, orderly list, Colby seeks to
our thinking about how we see trees. Can we really rank them
precisely? Whay would we want to? Do we root for the underdogs?
want to have a specific favorite because we think we should, or
like them all in some generic sense? Are we moved more by scent
vision? Does size matter (I'll stop there)?
I'm still thinking about my list and what
appeals to me about each of
the candidates. So far, it seems like there's a revolving tray
of me. First this one then that one, and then, heck, I like and
18, 2003 01:41 PDT
Your thoughtful treatment of some favorite tree species is a
fine piece of
work, and may be a hard act to follow. My simple list claims no
insight, but, like anything in print, may lead others to suppose
holds some great truths worth cogitation, like splashes of paint
in a modern
art gallery. Not so; I simply let the trees do the work, and
some struck me
with pleasure and an air of promise, while others, to my regret,
disappoint me. Then I awarded bonus points to any species
foresters looking for something to kill.
No, we won't let Bob wiggle out of giving us his list.
26, 2003 13:06 PDT
Colby, Ed, et al.:
Rack my brain as I have, I just can't assign
the tree species that I
especially like in any particular order. The tuliptree was
childhood favorite, but it has since been joined by others. The
pine, sugar maple, tuliptree, cottonwood, ponderosa pine, and
are all neck and neck. They all symbolize something of
importance to me
that I would sorely miss if I had to make a choice from among
The bur oak bolsters to my attraction to
savanna environments and my
love of large spreading trees. The bur oak stands always looks
and reliable. There's a permanence about an old bur oak in a
The ponderosa symbolizes my love of the
West. I picuture it in
rugged canyon terrain. I remember its fragrance. Its orange
makes it look like a pine is supposed to look like.
The cottonwood symbolizes life in harsh
prairie environments. It
marks the location of water and who isn't lulled by wind blowing
its leaves. Its thick bark and imposing size give easterners a
savor forests of yesteryear. I wouldn't dream of leaving out the
The tuliptree has always been the lord of its
domain and is the very
symbol of the Great Smoky Mountains. Its great size, its
tulip blossoms, and its cheery bright green leaves make it a
favorite. I'd never give it up, but alas, neither would I give
Finally, the white pine is the very symbol of
New England. Its lofty
crown rising well above a lesser canopy of hardwoods, its soft
green-white needles, and its status as our only confirmed
the East make the pride of the Northeast. I'd never give it up,
neither would I give up the others. So it is back to pondering
special appeal of each.
26, 2003 17:05 PDT
Your six favorite trees are a fine lot. It's interesting how
evoke fond personal memories for so many years. Trees do affect
us in many
ways; that's what ENTS is all about.
Incidentally, your six trees are all state trees, representing
Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska,
Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming.
Hmmm... Who's next? Illick listed 70 common trees native to
anyone want to rank them by favorites? Joe?
27, 2003 12:18 PDT
I don't know how to pick one favorite
tree but the sycamore has to be up there with its speckled
smooth bark. Weeping willow is another beautiful tree that I
especially enjoy in the spring. Its yellow-green leaves are one
of our first forest colors. There's also nothing like a tall,
straight red oak with its strong striping pattern. It's hard not
to appreciate many of our rural western Massachusetts roads
lined with stately sugar maples. Lastly, I wouldn't put pitch
pine at the top of my list but there is one bonsai-shaped
individual growing on a ridge on Mt. Tom that I particularly
29, 2003 08:43 PDT
Bob, Colby, et. al.,
Thought I'd try my hand at a list of some of my favorite trees.
I guess I'd have to be most partial to old growth white pine.
of my most viewed and studied trees at Cook Forest. It's just an
incredible feeling to walk up to one of those tall, old, deep
marvels of the woods. Just thinking that one of these tall
weathered centuries of storms and human expansion always brings
the feeling of awe and wonder of the Master Designer.
Ancient E. hemlock is also another great favorite of mine.
just can't decide which one I like more. The gnarled twisted
crooked arm branches, and burls just seem to scream with age.
Lee's pictures of the ancient cedar are another favorite. It
reminds me of the old hemlock, except it seems as if the age is
Huge old Am. beech is another top runner. I remember small game
from within one when I was a teenager. The trunk was quite
someone had cut viewing holes through the trunk. They even put a
inside. If the tree was along side of the road, it would've made
great two-kid bus stop. We had another large Am. beech back home
was quite impressive in girth. I suspect this old beech may
alive and sport a girth close to 14' CBH. It was also another
family deer stand over the decades.
Old cucumbertrees are wonder to behold. First glance of their
furrowed bark force me to go through the old process of
identify this magnificent tree... is it an old white ash, white
slippery elm? Finally the huge leaves and awkward fruits give it
It's seeds are delicious, but don't eat the outer covering... it
like turpentine and will leave a bad taste in your mouth for
Ancient black gum is another favorite. The bark on these trees
can't seem to make up their mind. One side can be heavily
while the other side can be fairly smooth. Their whorled leaves
me of a spiral staircase that only 'Tom Thumb' could climb.
American sycamore bark always plays a cruel humbling trick on
seems that the closer I get to them, the bigger they are. I
many I've bypassed over the years thinking that their dimensions
insignificant. Makes me remember that however much I think I've
about the woods and trees, the more I realize I know nothing at
Tall tuliptrees are another fascinating species. They are always
welcome surprise to me as I scan the woods for vertical
structure. I am
seldom disappointed. The large ancient ones are absolutely
I still find it hard to believe how big this hardwood tree can
get in a
All of this rhetoric is just from a novice's point of view. I'm
some day I'll get a chance to observe the true monsters out
are the trees that myths are made from.
to favorite trees
01, 2003 05:46 PDT
More thought given to favored tree species has
pushed me to add black
walnut to my list. I don't see much of it, but the ones I saw in
Valley were absolutely gorgeous. Looking aloft into those
crowns induced a state of "walnut-consciousness".
Maybe I'm just
becoming "nut-conscious", i.e. more conscious of
myself, but I swear I
heard the walnut tree we were measuring call out "be sure
to include me
in any future favorite big tree lists".
The light green feathery foliage has a
slightly tropical appearance
and is just very visually appealing. There is also the
feeling that the tree bears edible nuts. Its high value as fine
is a psychological booster and its symmetry is also appealing.
Great black walnuts of the past suggest that
at least in parts of its
range, it achieved great proportions. All in all, black walnut
is just a
splendid tree. I am curious as to what the arborists on our list
of black walnut. Is it an easy tree to prune? What do the
of the species? Fun to draw/paint? Russ, how frequently do you
black walnut in West Virginia?
So, let's see. I now have white pine,
tuliptree, sugar maple,
cottonwood, ponderosa pine, bur oak, and black walnut as
favorites. Why do I think this list is destined steadily grow?
Colby, you and Ed may have opened Pandora's box.
Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society
Back to favorite trees
01, 2003 19:22 PDT
Bob, Russ, Joe, JZ & all,
Orgasmic visual appeal & sentimentalities aside, I would
like to add a few of
my own "practical" favorites. As alluring &
endearing Castanea dentata
folklore may be I, like most baby-boomers, did not grow up among
But our family did live "off the land" in northeastern
Maine. Yes, living off
land frozen solid for much of the year requires the employment
of "hooks &
bullets" (the kind that "prematurally" end the
natural life of some individuals of
a species). No, I no longer find the need to hunt game to
survive, and only
use "barbless" hooks to occasionally land brook trout.
Here are some favorites;
(1) Eastern White Pine ~ because each individual possessed
physical characteristics & would rise fifty feet above the
forest canopy, Pinus
strobus served as a reference point along each mile of brook, so
I never got
disoriented (or, in the words of Boone, "bewildered").
(2) American Beech ~ deer & partridge could be found
foraging a good crop.
Also, easy-splitting fuelwood.
(3) Paper Birch ~ many times, in -20 weather, when down to my
it's paper-like bark has kindled a life-saving fire. Again,
(4) Tamarack ~ it's roots could be used as a field expedient
repair. Also, moose were often found communing among the
(5) Red Pine ~ the distinctive & soothing whistling when a
through it's crown would shorten ice fishing dry spells.
(6) Black Spruce ~ it's hardened resin, known as "spruce
gum", would stave
off hunger pangs during extended treks.
(7) Speckled Alder ~ it's smoke enhanced baked bean flavor. When
wood failed to burn after a soaking shower, dead alder burned
"When it's leaves are the size of a mouse's ear, the trout
are near (reliable
trout spring migration sign)."
(8) Eastern Hemlock ~ it's bark's tannin was useful in tanning
Pure hemlock stands were easy to walk through (as compared to
fir). Also, at day's end of harvesting, clothes did not acquire
positions like those soaked in spruce and fir resin.
(9) Common Juniper ~ it's groves were great partridge hideouts.
(10) Sugar Maple (called "Rock Maple" in northern
Maine) ~ it's condensed sap
was a staple in our household. It's wood burned cleanly and
the night in our two wood stoves September thru April.
A "Mainiac" at heart (though southern Appalachia
reminds me of home),
Pederson: Back to favorite trees
& Neil Pederson
02, 2003 20:15 PDT
I've enjoyed this thread of favorite trees and have mulled over
my own list while on the road and listening to a mix tape of
songs from one of my favorite bands. While compiling this list
I've kept in mind some of the comments about how our backgrounds
and personalities influence our favorite tree list. I realized
that while I like the hits by my favorite groups, I am drawn
more to their "b-sides," unreleased songs and
alternative takes of their popular songs. These songs for me
adds diversity and color to their discography. These songs bring
more of the group's forest to me.
Before I go on, I must be honest and note that this list is
somewhat temporary. Like music and books, some of our favorites
change as we change. Some of these trees reflect my most recent
That being said, my list, like many of your lists, I would
guess, is a phenotypic expression of our personality and
chestnut oak [Quercus prinus] - i like the almost tropical
appearance of its leaves when it is mixed in a northern hardwood
forest. its blocky bark when young and smooth appearance when
less vigorous or older adds great texture to the forest. its
pickle, vinegary aroma when cored has grown on me. a recent
sampling of a population in the northern Champlain valley of Vermont
had a particularly spicy mix in the aroma. most of all i
admire its persistence and longevity. i now know of 6 chestnut
oaks more than 420 years of age. this age puts it at the top of
the list for eastern north American oaks [in which ages can be
proven by rings]. one individual grew ~ 2 inches in diameter
over 100 years early in its life. this almost puts it in the
class of hemlock and spruce in terms of suppression tolerance. I
admire anything that can live this long in tough conditions.
Old Chestnut Oak
Magnolia acuminata variety subcordata - i've been sampling
cucumbertrees lately but, have to pick its subspecies with
creamy yellow flowers. the ones growing in the joyce kilmer area
are especially nice ones to visit. their relatively large
flowers on a tree in the spring adds a lot color to the canopy.
mockernut hickory - [Carya tomentosa] - poor hickory! often
lumped in many studies [i.e. Carya spp.] and overlooked by
dendroclimatologists, i am tempted to put all the hickories
here. the aroma they gives off when in the wood stove, great
yellow fall color, and how the ends of their branches look like
an old witch's arthritic fingers make them a cool tree. plus,
hickory is a native american word, very, very cool. however,
lumping hickory is something to avoid. so i chose mockernut for
its name, stout twigs, hairiness, and bluish-gray young twig
color, and bark that looks like it was once metal, partially
melted and then cooled.
water hickory [Carya aquatica] - its fine and numerous
leaflets makes it a great yard tree and adds nice texture to
black tupelo - [Nyssa sylvatica] - for its 90 degree
branching that gives it a TV antenna appearance when viewed from
below and stunningly, vibrant red fall foliage; the ability to
live >6 centuries; the only honey here that does not sugar
and its a piney, spicy flavor makes this a great tree. love the
contrast of blocky bark on one side with baby smooth bark on the
tulip-poplar - [Liriondendron tulipifera] - great height,
great leaves, great flowers for a temperate tree. the spicy
aroma from its flowers is a delight. its signalling of spring w/
its light green flags when breaking bud and autumn when slowly
dropping bright yellow leaves at the end of summer is something
i can count on.
sweet birch - [Betula lenta] - the handbook of vermont trees
places this species above oaks and maples and just behind
hickory as one of the heaviest woods in vermont. that is a great
trait for a birch. last winter i got the chance to burn some
dry, sweet birch. it filled the house with great warmth, a
wonderful aroma and a deep red glow. burn some if you can! also,
ed cook has a sweet birch core with nearly 400 rings on it. this
age is not a fluke. our lab has a sample from a live tree w/
nearly 300 rings.
larch/eastern tamarack - [Larix laricina] - a deciduous
conifer that treats locals to a second spectacular fall foliage
after the leaf peepers gone home. its golden yellow needles set
against the dark green of its coniferous cousins and a clear
blue mid-autumnal sky is a sight to behold. great old name -
Florida maple - [Acer barbatum] - a few consider this tree to
be a subspecies of sugar maple. for those who grew up with sugar
maple, it is hard to buy. it is a wonderful small tree with
tannish-gray, creamy bark with hints of orange [as i recall]
when old. with small maple leaves, it was great to find a stand
of these in the hydrich hammocks of south Georgia.
sugar maple [Acer sacharrum] - sweet, sweet sugar maple;
sweet fall foliage, sweet sap and syrup, sweet aroma when
burned! what more would you want out of a tree?
sassafras - [Sassafras albidum] - the multi-shaped, broad
leaves add texture and a tropical feeling to the northern woods,
too. great name and a great use of the letter S - sassy! orange
inner bark provides great color. sucking on a twig on a hazy,
hot humid, and gnatty day in south Georgia gives one a second
wind. what i like the most these days about it these days is its
ability to be a sure kindling stick. it catches easily and burns
hot to ensure the fire is off to a good start even though the
larger wood may be greenish or damp. when a piece of sassafras
comes my firewood load, i place it to the side and savor it like
it is one of my last pieces of fine, dark chocolate.
carolina silver bell - [Halesia caroliniana] - small white
bell shaped flowers with oily-looking, multi-colored bark on
older trees. caught my attention during my first trip in the
yellow buckeye - [Aescules flava] - the patterned bark on
old-growth individuals after the outer bark sloughs off is a
great relief in the deep forests of the smokys.
heart-shaped leaf paper birch - [Betula papyrifera variety
cordifolia] - pink tinted bark, heart shaped leaves - if you
haven't seen this tree, go up whiteface mountain in new york or
burke mountain in the northeast kingdom of vermont [other
places, i'm sure]. it is a beautiful tree. i think its common
name should be luv birch! luv this birch.
i'll stop here. i really like most eastern north american
trees. these are the ones that i would like to visit again.
Back to favorite trees
03, 2003 04:39 PDT
Yours is a most memorable account and one that
belongs on our website. I'm especially fascinated by your
observations about form, shape, texture. Splendid contribution.
Back to favorite trees
02, 2003 04:05 PDT
Good one. The harsh realities of Maine (my
sister lives there) living off the land brings the utilitarian
qualities of each species into sharp focus, of which there are
many that become lost over the years.
As one would expect Native Americans had to
make use of everything in the natural world until we spoiled
them with artificial goods. Black ash was and still is a
preferred species for Native Americans in the Northeast for
basket-making. I have a friend in Vermont, Erhard Frost who
encourages it to grow on his land. He's a forester with 28 years
of experience who lives a simple utilitarian life.
I once watched a great Algonquin canoe maker
in Manikawi, CA building a birch bark canoe. He used spruce
roots for binding. Unfortunately, decent-sized white birch were
becoming very scare due to the clearcutting of big Candian and
American timber companies.
The ubiquitous appeal among the older
generation is American chestnut has always fascinated me.
Oldtimers can get misty eyed when talking about the species. My
dad was a great lover of chestnut.
sassafras, black walnuts, and other tree stuff..
06, 2003 11:13 PDT
I thought about checking the ENTS web page right after sending
At the time the list was compiled, the greatest height of
119.1' and the greatest girth was 6.5'. The national champ is
20' girth, probably a multiple?
Call me utilitarian, but I went to a 12-13' girth black walnut
childhood home to pick walnuts to stratify and plant on the
my current home. Can you believe it, but I actually did not
I did give it a hug test and it was two tight hugs plus. Now, I
to go back and we can add to the list to bulk up the girths on
The tree is on property homesteaded around 1840 and the tree
have been planted in a row along with a bunch of large mixed
is preserved on a park memorializing Jeremiah Curtin, who built
existing log cabin in 1846. He was the first Wisconsinite to
from Harvard and was fluent in 70 languages. He was the
the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia during Lincoln's term. He was
famous for preserving many native American dialects which would
otherwise have been lost.
It seemed like good local seed source to use for replanting.
of the walnuts passed the float test and will be planted in fire
scorched tin soup cans with x's cut into the top of them to
squirrels from eating them but still allowing them to germinate
properly! Once the prairie plants are finished going to seed,
spending some time on my property conducting a small scale bur
savanna restoration. I have lot's of invasive foreign buckthorn
some honeysuckle to remove. My chainsaw will be getting some
and the Round-Up will be used in force.
Now that I'm babbling, I can talk about my favorite trees, too.
My all time favorite is the eastern white pine. The fact that
always the biggest trees in the Wisconsin northwoods forced an
greatness and brought back a hint of what might have been from
eras. A large white pine in the middle of rotting 100 year old
always made me sit and wonder why he was left to stand. Was he
small then? Did they leave him out of respect? Wind whooshes
red pine grove but it whispers through white pine. White pine
better, too. There is something dry and stale about a red pine
but white pine is much easier on the nose. The pale bluish tint
white pine needles also is very attractive. I have many memories
returning from long hikes after sunset when the twilight is
familiar white pines in the distance always were recognizable
There silhouettes in the moonlight are very readily visible
driving at night. It seems that white pines in my area were
at important places. Small groves marked the homestead sites
cabins, boat landings on large lakes, and old river crossings
bridges. Also, in the large clearcut areas, white pines were
dirt road intersections sot that navigation was possible
from tree to tree during the winter when a blanket of snow hid
ungraded roadbeds. I have also noticed that large mammals use
pine as landmarks, too. While deer hunting throughout my life, I
used to deer or bear trails across large swamps nearly always
from or to a large white pine on an island or edge of the swamp,
likewise, intentionally detouring to intentionally go past white
in the forest, if it was only a little out of the way. Bears
do it for the safety of themselves and their cubs, but deer may
used them as landmarks after the clearcut era, and successive
generations continue to use the old trails out of habit and
passed on to
ongoing generations from the mother doe even after the clearcuts
back. The white pine has so many memories of sight, sound, and
that nothing can pass it in my mind.
Hemlock is a close second in my mind to white pine. It is about
height of the pines here, but has the same girth. More remain
here, the big ones were felled for their bark while their trunks
left to rot. It always seemed a shameful waste, but at least the
remaining CWD contributed to the ecosystem. The bears seemed to
hemlock as runner ups on their trails when pine wasn't
deer preferred to hide under them, too. The dense hemlock groves
sheltered them from the harsh winter weather and brought
darkness to the
forest even during a sunny day. Wind is different in the
No whooshing or whispering there. In the hemlock, the wind
you've been there, then you know what I mean. There is nothing
being in a blizzard in a hemlock stand. When you enter it, it
like all hell is breaking loose, then, you cross some imaginary
are shocked by the peaceful calm within the hemlock grove while
world seems uninhabitable outside the grove. Within the grove, a
snowflakes make their way to the earth and the wind is absent.
thick mossy ground makes a wonderfully soft carpet to rest upon. Their
few if any leaves to crunch. Large animals can walk silently on
thick, mossy duff. Even though you can't hear their footsteps,
hear the rustling of a bear's or deer's fur against itself like
sound of someone's sleeve rubbing against their body in a
winter jacket. The hemlocks muffle distant sounds so that the
background noise is eliminated. The silence makes your ears
Nearby sounds seem louder because of the lack of background
calls of a hermit or swainson's thrush at twilight have to be
The songs of blackburnian warblers and winter wrens keep you
during the day.
Ahh, hemlock groves, white pines are my favorite individual
hemlock groves are my favorite groves or forests. If you give me
mixed hemlock/white pine forest, then I am in heaven.
Alright, enough running on... now I really want to take a nap in
hemlock grove... oh well, I'll have to wait...
groves of trees
06, 2003 13:33 PDT
Paul upped the anti with his artful description of the forest
that he finds in quiet hemlock groves. More specifically,
one's attention from individual trees to groves provides us with
interesting tests. We can go from esoteric appreciation of trees
distant genetic programming and then back. It can be a wild
Savannas are irrestibly appealing to me. They always have been.
not developmental. It's just there. Mid-western bur oak forests
near the top. But is the appeal of such places more a
vestigial memories called forth from a then not so naked ape?
At least I have often thought so.
If broad-spreading trees in savannas are appealing to us because
were once safe havens from the teeth and claws of fearsome
then a cooperative venture of sight and sound elevates groves of
aspens in the Rocky Mountains to exalted heights not tied to
safety. Open aspen groves are where mountains and forests
complement one another in a veritable symphony of sights and
Views through widely spaced aspen groves, sent shimmering with
breeze, to craggy snow-capped peaks beyond make the brief
summers of the Rockies places best enjoyed in contemplation,
and just experiencing the sheer joy of the beauty of such
aspen groves are the place where trees blend with sky, rock, and
make a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Elsewhere the
groves can dominate so completely that one sees the forest for
trees. And who has not marveled at shafts of sun light
groves of tall conifers, illuminating delicate carpets of moss
otherwisee dark forest floor? Such images enhance many a nature
photographer's portfolio. But why are these sights so appealing
What do they trigger in us?
Sometimes it is difficult for me to predict what the impact of a
forest will be on visitors that accompany me. Yesterday was such
as John Knuerr and I shared a special forest in the Berkshires
members of the New England Wild Flower Society. The ambience of
forest lies in its wealth of visual images that are centered
beautiful oaks. But would the others be able to appreciate so
variations on an oak theme to savor its totality as a natural
forest art. The answer was a resounding yes. Yesterday we were
to have such an appreciative group and today we are thankful.
spoke and it was heard.
Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society
10, 2003 18:28 PDT
I couldn't really weigh in with a list of favorite trees before,
there's just no way I could have a favorite tree, I couldn't
even narrow it down to fifty species and feel okay about it.
They all just have their own unique and amazing attributes.
But I was looking at the fall colors starting here, and it got
me to thinking... I still can't narrow it down to a favorite,
but there's definitely some that stand out. It's amazing how
much variety between species, and within species, and even
within individual trees from year to year. What I find amazing
also is how in the fall, even with the similarities of colors,
the subtle differences can really clue you in to which species
you are looking at. In combination with form and canopy texture,
it's even easier to pick out species at a distance. But also if
you become familiar with the subtleties, you can look far across
a valley and tell the difference from the yellow of a birch and
the yellow of a maple, or the reds of a blackgum and the reds of
a sourwood, etc.
Anyway, this is a list, but in no particular order, and by no
Sassafras- nearly always look great. Like so many trees, they
are very variable, I vividly remember a beautiful fall morning
in Middle Tennessee, clear air and dew on the grass, and
climbing a big and beautiful sassafras with the whole crown a
brilliant red, deep blue sky behind. Often the leaves have
oranges and reds together, sometimes the whole tree can be
brilliant orangey yellow.
Sumac- all kinds. Smooth sumac can have red, orange, and yellow
leaflets on the same leaf. Winged sumacs usually make rounded
domes of dark, dark red. The flame-like spikes of fruit make it
that much more beautiful.
Poison ivy- not a tree, but every year around here it's one of
the showiest plants, big clumps shooting off of trunks of trees,
bright reds and oranges. Another non-tree species that kicks in
the fall is Virginia creeper, which can be all shades of red,
from near pink to maroon. Two of the most striking things I saw
today: A gnarly leaning black oak with nearly black bark and
peachy red orange poison ivy spiraling up the trunk, and a big,
deep dark green white pine with a shock of deep red creeper
mixed in the crown.
Hickories can have the most luminous yellows and yellow-brown
oranges, with the dark bark on pignuts, it's amazing.
White ash, sometimes, has this amazing purplish salmon color
unlike anything else.
Of course maples, with so much variety but the classic sugar
maple orange making your brain hurt, it's so beautiful. It's one
of those you can look into the forest on a cloudy, dark day, and
a lone one is seeming to illuminate it's surroundings with a
warm glow. Red maples' leaves, like their bark, and their form,
is so variable you could never describe them all.
Sourwoods, with so many shades of red, often with the fading
tassels of flowers hanging in front of the leaves to give that
much more texture, and the contorted forms of the branches and
trunks elaborate stands for the crowns.
Elms can have this kind of dark yellow, with the dark bark it's
Tuliptree, rarely, can have an overall crown glowing yellow,
shimmering like a true poplar.
Fraser magnolias turn the most perfect leathery brown, like the
margins of beech leaves with the veins yellowing giving the
whole tree an orangey brown look.
Sweetgums are a crazy carnival of colors, with dark purple,
orange, red and yellow on the same tree.
Serviceberries are such a bright red sometimes it hurts, but
they can also be orange, yellow, or all- I've got one in my yard
that's still deep green in the veins and bright red on the
margins, like scarlet oaks sometimes are, and speaking of
Carpinus, dogwoods, blackgum, oh my god I almost forgot devil's
walkingstick, I'm not even going to try to describe the colors,
but growing in big clumps, with the clusters of berry-like fruit
a deep purpley black, holy guacamole- and I have to stop because
there's so much more, I still can't narrow it down enough, and I
could never begin to do justice because there aren't adequate
adjectives to describe them. Not that I'm the best writer
anyway, but it's like taste: we just don't have very good words
to describe the some things well enough. Sometimes words really
can't describe. All I know is, fall rocks.
11, 2003 14:28 PDT
I thoroughly enjoyed your most descriptive essay on fall colors.
I've always admired the numerous sour gums hereabouts, and I
happily display the first orange-red fallen leaf to the family
before summer is yet over.
Still, the most memorable episode occurred a few years ago on a
visit to the Gettysburg battlefield. A friend had made a
contribution to the fund to erect a statue of Longstreet, and
suggested we see it. It was a beautiful day in early autumn, and
we drove the road that extends down through the woods on
Seminary Ridge, noting the many monuments, including the massive
one honoring Lee, Gutzon Borglum's fine North Carolina bronze,
Like Lee's, the monuments faced out toward the valley, with
Cemetery Ridge and the Copse of Trees in the distance. But the
Longstreet statue was not among them. As I understand it,
Longstreet had suggested that a frontal attack on the third day
was unwise, but Lee had gone ahead in a massive debacle. Rather
than blame their infallible Lee, many southerners had criticized
Longstreet, as if his wisdom was responsible. After the war,
Longstreet was a voice for conciliation and moving forward. This
may have further rankled many southerners.
At any rate, it had taken well over a century for Longstreet to
get a statue, and we couldn't find it. We drove all over, and
finally discovered it on the back side of Seminary Ridge, at the
edge of a brushy woods, well hidden in a small parking lot. It's
a fine bronze, perhaps life-size, of Longstreet astride a
galloping horse, set at grade, with no base, no pedestal. It's
quite the opposite of Lee's great pile.
I was glad we had found the statue, but it was all rather sad,
with no real message. I then noticed a small sour gum
immediately behind the statue. It was perhaps thirty feet high,
fully branched, nearly to the ground. In the slanting rays of
early autumn perhaps one third of the leaves were a full bright
red, well scattered, and the rest still green.
Immediately I was reminded of the third day, and the grassy
expanse leading to the copse of trees. The little gum tree
spoke, so vividly, of that scene, and the blood upon the grass.