Tag Archives: trees

Trees in the neighborhood

Spring is in the air down here in Southern Indiana.  The temperatures are warming.  The spring flowers are blooming.  Our yard and fields are showcasing daffodils and spring beauties.

Earlier this week I was in the woods planting some small saplings of native trees.  These are free from the state DNR.  As I was locating the new plants, I looked around at all the other trees in the area.  In the many years of living here, my boys grew up knowing how to identify trees by bark, leaves, the wood and even the smell of the wood.  But I realize that many people have never had the opportunity to explore the woods with some knowledge.  So here are some of the trees in our own woods with names that will be familiar to you.  By just the bark. 

Let’s see how good you are at identification.

Sycamores are an extraordinarily beautiful tree, especially in winter. The upper limbs show bright white against the rest of the drab forest but the lower trunk has a shaggy, peeling bark. They have very large leaves and little fuzzy seed balls. I can never see sycamores without breaking into our state song, Back Home Again In Indiana…. Now you can’t get that out of your head, can you?
This is a very large sugar maple in our front yard. In autumn, it hosts a beautiful display of reddish leaves. Actually, there were several of these trees on the property when we moved here. As you can see, the poor tree is nearly done with interior rot. We have never sugared but I imagine it was popular in the day. It was the host to a pretty neat tree house when the kids were young.
We were delighted to find a whole little grove of shagbark hickory in our woods when we moved here many years ago. It has a very distinctive shaggy bark. (Thus the name.) The nuts taste like pecans. If you can get any. The squirrels and other critters usually harvest everything.
Young locust on the left and mature locust on the right. A rather shaggy bark, these elegant trees can be found on most old homesteads. The wood was often used as fence posts as they seem to be resistant to rot. They have a small leaf so there isn’t anything to rake in the fall. They also have the most beautiful creamy white racemes of flowers with a heady perfume in the spring. The bees love them. They’re the tallest trees in our yard towering over 80 feet. They also propagate by underground runners so they might appear anywhere nearby. I don’t know if these are black locusts or honey locusts but I still love their stateliness.
This hackberry tree was a real puzzle to us when we first moved here many years ago. It has a very knobby bark and tiny whitish/green blossoms. It seems to reseed well but I don’t know if that’s an advantage. The young one on the left has more pronounced knobs but the mature one on the right is also still knobby. A good shade tree, it stands about 60 feet high in our yard.
The native dogwood tree bark reminds me of a puzzle with many interlocking pieces. These days they’re under attack from an imported disease but so far, they’re holding their own. A beautiful understory tree with large white blossoms in spring, they go unnoticed the rest of the year.
This crab apple was given to me as my first Mother’s day gift many years ago. It has a glorious display of pink flowers each spring. It’s progeny has been shared with many people. As you can see, the woodpeckers have been having a go at it as well but it’s still hanging on.
The cedar tree is often thought of as a trash tree but they are quite handy to have. We have used them as fence posts, bird feeder posts, and built an arbor out of cedar logs. We even had some milled to use as benches. They have a lovely red variegated color inside and a wonderful smell.
Wild Cherry with some problems. These trees have a very dark bark and are messy. These are not cherries to eat but contain cyanide so they can be poison to livestock and animals.

These are just a few varieties of trees on our property. I haven’t included the red and white oaks, river birch, ironwood, hazel (a bush, really), sweet gum, pines and more. What is native to your area?

Spring cleanup

These cheery yellow crocuses are the first to bloom this year. They get extra warmth and shelter near this rock wall.

After what seems like weeks of rain, wind and generally yucky weather (yes, that is an actual meteorological description in the Midwest), we finally had a beautiful sunny and relatively warm day with temps in the 50s.  I couldn’t wait to get outside for a bit.  This is the time of year to clean up all the winter debris.  I know I raked those flower beds so where did all these leaves come from?

This is just a small portion of the area still covered by the chestnut seed hulls. I raked four wheelbarrow loads today and have as much again to rake tomorrow. They didn’t decompose much over the winter.

A big mess in the yard was our last chestnut which we cut down a week ago.  We had already cut down two companions previously.  The Chinese chestnut is a beautifully shaped tree with an umbrella-shaped top, large leaves, beautiful grayish bark and, of course, lots of chestnuts.  These trees were very prolific.  This would not normally be a problem as we have plenty of room – ninety acres, remember – and we have loads of other nut-bearing trees.  Oaks, walnuts, hickory, plus fruit trees.

Chestnut seed hulls remind me of spiny sea urchins. They are very painful to handle or step on. I only use leather gloves to work with them.

However, chestnuts have a seed hull which is very prickly, like a spiny sea urchin.  You can only handle them with leather gloves and they are very painful to step on.  They are also very prolific. When we cut down the first two chestnuts, we thought that we wouldn’t get any more seed pods without the pollinators.  That was a mistaken idea.  As you can see by the debris on the ground, there was still plenty to clean up.

I spent a couple of hours raking and gathered four wheelbarrow loads of hulls.  There is still as much again to do tomorrow.  What I couldn’t rake will eventually decompose but it will probably be a few years before anyone can go barefoot in that part of the yard.

Chestnut woodpile. All of this wood came from one tree.

Chestnut wood is beautiful with a grayish-green color and kind of stripey. It is also very dense and heavy.

It was a beautiful day.  The first crocuses were finally brave enough to pop out.  I even spotted a few spring beauties in bloom.  In about a month, they will carpet the lawn so it looks like snow.

One of my favorite wildflowers and early harbinger of spring. Spring beauties have a delicate pink stripe which can’t be seen in this photo. I’ll try for another shot later.

I sure was ready for lunch and a rest.  And our dog Mikey was ready, too.  Keeping me company and following me around was hard work.

You are like a chestnut burr, prickly outside, but silky-soft within, and a sweet kernel, if one can only get at it.  Love will make you show your heart someday, and then the rough burr will fall off.

Louisa May Alcott