More late-winter 2019 photos from around the farm!
Quercus falcata is a little-known species in the mid-Atlantic that has gained in popularity in recent years as a great landscape tree for larger spaces. Commonly known as southern red oak or Spanish oak (Spanish not because of being native to Spain, but rather because it is a common woodland tree in areas of the country originally ruled by Spain) is native to a broad swath of the southeast, from central New Jersey westward to southern Illinois and Missouri and southward through Oklahoma, Texas and the Gulf Coast as far as central Florida. Compared with the more-familiar northern red oak (Quercus rubra), Q. falcata has distinctive shiny green leaves with 3-5 deep, sickle-like, bristle-tipped lobes that give an appearance (according to some) not unlike that of a guitar.
The leaves are often somewhat droopy and turn reddish-brown in the autumn, then slowly fall over the winter.
In its native range, the southern red oak prefers well-drained sites and is often found in dry, poor soils where it out-competes many other native hardwoods. These characteristics make it an ideal specimen for urban and suburban sites where soils have been disturbed and watering may be irregular; once established it is quite tolerant of neglect.
A medium grower, with room it develops an open, irregularly oval crown with the coarse texture typical of red oaks and typically matures at a height of 60-80 feet with a spread two-thirds the height in the landscape. As a shade or specimen tree; southern red oaks typically do not display surface roots and feature well-spaced upright branches, thus allowing activity under the canopy. The thick, furrowed bark is marked with shallow ridges and brownish-gray to black color adds interest throughout the year.
In southern forests, this species can grow quite large. The US champion in Upton County, Georgia has a height of 137 feet and a spread of 118 feet with a circumference of 28½ feet.
Historically, the heavy, strong wood of southern red oak was used for fence posts, heating fuel, and general construction. The coarse grain and open pore structure makes the dried timber useful for fine carpentry as it takes both stain and glue well. Native Americans used both the acorns and bark for medicinal and occasionally food uses, while the acorns are an important food source for turkey, squirrel, rabbit, white-tail deer and black bears.
White House Natives supplies Quercus falcata in a range of sizes including 2”, 2½” and 3” caliper. All sizes are part of our regular and rigorous pruning program, so the trees you receive are landscape ready and are sure to make an impression on your next project.
We’re well underway in our winter pruning. At WHN, each and every plant is pruned every winter when branches are bare to ensure great branching and structure in everything you receive. More pictures to come!
Some aerial shots of the farm taken 2 February 2019
WHN celebrated the end of a wet, but successful year with our partners from Shen-Paco on Thursday December 13th. Eric and Cody cooked lunch for everyone and handed out new hats and pullovers for the entire team. These ten hard-working individuals help us with the many hands-on tasks that are required to grow and cultivate a quality native tree. We are thankful for their help and it has been our pleasure to see their happiness and watch them grow along side our trees.
Merry Christmas to all!
Betula nigra, or river birch, is a fast-growing shade and ornamental tree. Indigenous to the eastern United States, from coastal New Hampshire west to Minnesota and south to eastern Texas and northern Florida, river birch prefers swampy areas, bottomlands and stream banks in its native range. It can grow as a single-stemmed specimen or as a multi-trunked clump. Pyramidal in form when young, it develops a rounded irregular crown when mature, topping out at 40 to 70 feet in height.
River birch provides year-round interest in the landscape; bright green spring growth matures to 2-3” long leathery, dark green, diamond-shaped, toothed leaves which often turn brilliant yellow in the autumn. Its peeling pinkish-brown to black-brown bark exfoliates to reveal shades of peach and cream. Short green and brown catkins appear in spring as well.
Although river birch prefers moist environments in the wild, it is tolerant of drier conditions when established and is relatively free of the pests and diseases that affect non-native Betula species. It also performs well in urban environments. It can exhibit chlorosis in alkaline soils, but this can be corrected by applications of chelated iron or other products to lower soil pH. It is an excellent choice for streambank and wetlands restoration projects.
Betula nigra sap was used by Native Americans and early settlers as a sweetener, similar to maple sap. Because of this heavy sap flow, pruning should be avoided in the late winter and early spring.
White House Natives sells 3- and 5-stem Betula nigra in sizes from 8 ft to 14 ft and single-stem specimens from 2” to 4” caliper. We stake and prune our trees for even branching and limb them up from two to four feet depending on size to show off their exfoliating bark. Many good cultivars are sold by other nurseries in the trade, but WHN focuses on growing the straight species.
Despite the occasional rain, digging is now underway for fall 2018! If you haven’t placed your orders yet, do it now. Inventory is selling through quickly!
White House Natives was honored to co-host the Shenandoah Valley Nursery and Greenhouse Association (SVNGA) tour on October 3rd, 2018. We were able to show off our nursery for the second time in four years. Attendees got a first-hand look at our liners just planted in September of this year, as seen in the pictures. We also took them on a ride around the nursery to let them see crops of larger size material from 2-3.5” caliper that is ready for harvest this fall and next spring. There was a lot of interest in the fiberglass stakes we use to train our trees, drip irrigation to keep them watered, cover crops used to build up our soil fertility, observations and results of our extensive pruning, along with planting and harvesting techniques.
Growth is hardening off and we’ve done our final inventory counts and pricing for the fall. See the availability here. We’ve got some beautiful material available for you for fall 2018 and spring 2019!
Trees are fascinating. They are all around us, we see them every day, they are beautiful and each provides many ecosystem services; the more you learn about them, the more amazing they become. Take bark for instance. Every tree has bark – it is the outer skin of the tree, and, like humans, comes in a variety of colors.
All trees grow bark in the same way: tissue cells just under the bark called the cambium divides, allowing the bark to stretch and the tree to increase its diameter. On either side of the cambium, the phloem and xylem add a layer each year, creating the growth rings visible in the interior when a tree is cut. Xylem conducts water and nutrients from the roots to the tree canopy and provides strength to the tree. Phloem transports vitamins, amino acids, sugars and hormones throughout the tree.
If damage occurs to the bark, trees often die. Healthy bark means a healthy tree. Insects and pathogens can hurt a tree, particularly when combined with mechanical damage (weed eaters or mowers scuffing the bark, etc.). However, trees do a remarkable job of compartmentalizing damage by creating scar tissue around injuries and separating it from the rest of the tree.
One of the most interesting of barks is that of the shagbark hickory (Carya ovata). On mature trees, vertical lengths of bark pull away from the trunk and turn up on the ends. As with sycamore, white oak and birches, this sheeting habit provides valuable protection to many insects, bats, butterflies, caterpillars, spiders and other forest life.
Many Native Americans traditionally gathered and roasted the nuts, a tasty and highly nutritious fall food. Hickory “milk” is made by pounding the nuts into a paste, boiling and pouring off the nutritious liquid to be used in a variety of dishes. The name “hickory” comes from the Algonquin word “pawcohiccora”, meaning hickory milk.
Carya, the genus name comes from the Greek name for the walnut tree (karya); ovata, the species name, is Latin for ovate, referring to the egg-shaped buds, nut husk and leaves.
Harvest time is in September and October, when the nuts are on the ground, making for easy gathering.
There are four hickories native to Virginia, including shagbark, mockernut, pignut and bitternut with the nuts of the shagbark being the thinnest shell making them the easiest to harvest the meat inside. Shagbark hickories grow in the Piedmont and mountains of Virginia but do not grow along the eastern side of the state or the coastal plain. They extend as far west as Missouri, but tend to be scarce across the entire area and don’t tend to colonize or grow in great abundance in most areas.
Some caterpillars feast on the leaves but the tree is generally-pest resistant. They thrive in full sun but can handle some shade, enjoying moist, even wet conditions.
In the landscape, it is important to provide them plenty of space as they can reach heights of 100 feet and should be planted in areas where their nuts won’t impact vehicles, walkways or create maintenance issues. They can live to be 350 years or more and, but due to their long taproot, do not transplant particularly well after reaching a certain size (though White House Natives takes particular care in the careful digging and moving of all stock).
The wood of shagbark hickory is very heavy, hard, tough and very strong. According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, no other commercial species is its equal in combined strength, toughness, hardness and stiffness. It is used for tool handles, furniture, flooring, sporting equipment, charcoal and fuel wood.
Shagbark hickory belongs to the Juglandaceae family and can hybridize with pecan trees. In recipes, the sweet, white shagbark hickory nuts can be substituted for pecans..
Squirrels relish the nuts, as do deer, bear and other mammals. If providing habitat and protection to many small insects and feeding wildlife is a goal in the landscape, shagbark hickory is a great choice.