Featured Native: Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Acer saccharum, 2½”, summer

Acer saccharum, 2½”, summer

Acer saccharum, commonly known as sugar or rock maple, is a large, deciduous, climax-forest tree, usually growing 80 to 120 ft (occasionally 135 ft) tall in the wild.  It is native from the Canadian Maritimes and southern Ontario south through the Appalachians to Tennessee.  In northern reaches of its native range and at higher elevations, it often forms nearly pure stands, often in association with spruces (Picea), firs (Abies), beech (Fagus), and birch (Betula).  It is one of the longest-lived plants of eastern North America, with numerous specimens recorded as reaching 350-400 years of age.

 

Acer saccharum, 2½”, winter

Acer saccharum, 2½”, winter

In the landscape, A. saccharum is best used as a specimen or shade tree in a larger space.  Under these conditions, it typically tops out at 70-80 feet.  A medium-fast grower, sugar maple is upright-oval in habit in youth, becoming wide-spreading and rounded with age.  The palmate, opposite leaves are a medium green and five-lobed and typically range from 4 to 6 inches across.  The fall color is usually spectacular, ranging from clear yellow in poorer autumns to fiery shades of crimson, scarlet, and orange under the best conditions.  Small greenish-yellow flowers are followed by green samaras (‘helicopters’), which turn tan and drop in autumn.  The bark is smooth and pale grey in youth becoming furrowed and deep grey-brown with age.

 

Acer saccharum, 1¼”, tying up leaders

Acer saccharum, 1¼”, tying up leaders

Sugar maple is tolerant of a variety of soil types from clay to loam to sand, but performs best in rich, loamy soil.  It is highly intolerant of pollution, salts, and poor drainage, but is one of the few native trees that can survive as an understory plant and in the root zone of black walnut (Juglans nigra).   The root system is deeper than most Acer species, but also tends to have an extensive network of fine surface roots, which when combined with the deep shade cast by a mature tree tends to limit the viability of understory plants.  The multi-level root system serves as a hydraulic lift, transporting deeper groundwater to the surface for its own benefit and that of surrounding plants.  A. saccharum can be susceptible to diseases and pests such verticillium wilt, tar spot, anthracnose, borers and cottony maple scale but is usually not strongly affected unless the tree is suffering from severe prior stress.

 

Acer saccharum, fall color

Acer saccharum, fall color

Economically, sugar maple, along with the very closely related black maple (A. nigrum), is the source of the multi-billion dollar maple syrup and sugar industry.   Effective harvesting of sap for syrup-making requires a long cold-dormancy period, so most production tracts are located north of the 42° or 43° parallel.  The wood of A. saccharum has an attractive grain and is very durable and is extensively used for a variety of purposes, including flooring, furniture, stringed musical instruments, pool cues, and bowling pins.  Due to the demise of most Fraxinus in North America due to the emerald ash borer, it is now the primary wood used for the construction of baseball bats.

White House Natives supplies Acer saccharum from 1¾” to 2½” caliper.   If you have the space, it is truly a magnificent addition to the landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Nursery, 25 Sept 2020, part 1 of 3

Part one of three of photos of our nursery as summer fades to autumn. Photos taken 25 Sept 2020.

EcoAction Tree Stewards Arlington

EcoAction Tree Stewards of Arlington visited White House Natives on 20 August 2020to tag approximately 250 trees for Arlington County.  These trees will be installed by Davey Tree this fall. Species tagged included: Asimina triloba, Carpinus carolinianaCeltis occidentalisCercis canadensis, Magnolia virginiana, Quercus bicolor, Quercus palustris, Platanus occidentalis, and Tilia americana.   WHN has been fortunate to partner with South Riding Nurseries, Davey Tree and EcoAction for several years to be the local native tree supplier of choice for Arlington County.  Photos taken 20 Aug 2020.

Featured Native: Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)

Quercus palustris; 3”

Quercus palustris; 3”

Quercus palustris, the pin oak, is a medium to occasionally large deciduous tree, usually growing 50 to 70 ft tall in the wild; sometimes reaching 100 ft under ideal conditions.  Its native range extends from southern New England south to Georgia and west to Kansas and Iowa.  In its native range, pin oak is typically a sub-climax forest tree occupying a number of habitats in association with sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), American elm (Ulmus americana), and red maple (Acer rubrum).  As its Latin name implies (from palus, swamp), Q. palustris is fond of soils that are damp in the winter, but is often found in much drier situations.  Despite the species’ preference for damp winter soils, it is very unhappy with wet roots during the growing season; in this regard it is best

Quercus palustris; new growth detail.

Quercus palustris; new growth detail.

suited for well-drained areas in the landscape. In its growing habit, Quercus palustris presents a branching pattern unique amongst native trees:  lower branches angled downward, middle branches level and topmost branches upswept, leading to a narrowly oval or pyramidal outline.   It is among the narrowest of native oaks in crown spread at maturity.

As a landscape tree, Q. palustris normally grows no taller than 50-60 feet with a 30-foot spread.  The 5” long-glossy, deep-green leaves are deeply-lobed with U-shaped sinuses (versus shallower C-shaped sinuses in the similar but more massive scarlet oak, Q. coccinea) and bristly tips.  The foliage unfurls in spring with a pinkish-grey color and turns russet to bright red in autumn.   Inconspicuous yellow-green flowers in spring are followed by small acorns which mature in the second autumn of growth.   The bark is brownish-grey, smooth on young

Quercus palustris; 2”, fall color.

Quercus palustris; 2”, fall color.

trees, gradually becoming shallowly furrowed with age.  The regular, almost formal, appearance of a mature pin oak makes it a very popular choice as a street tree, especially along broad boulevards and entranceways.   The narrow habit and small acorn size, however, also make it one of the best oaks for the landscape in general.   As noted above, pin oak prefers a moist but well-drained soil.  It is easily transplanted due to its fibrous root system and lack of a taproot.   It is also relatively unaffected by pests or disease, but is very intolerant of shade and of alkaline soils; alkalinity will cause severe chlorosis of the foliage and lead to a quick death.

Quercus palustris; 3½”, in winter.

Quercus palustris; 3½”, in winter.

The wood of Q. palustris is heavy and dense, but somewhat weaker than most oaks due to the knotholes from numerous branches.  It is most commonly used commercially to make wooden pins (hence the common name).   The leaves of pin oak are a preferred feeding species for several native moths.  The small acorns are also a favorite of many birds, including wood ducks, mallards, wild turkeys, nuthatches, jays, and titmice due to their small size.  Native Americans used tea made from the twigs and inner back as a remedy for digestive complaints.

White House Natives supplies Quercus palustris from 2”to 3” caliper.   If you’re looking for a great-looking street tree or a smaller oak for the landscape, pin oak is worthy of your consideration.

 

 

 

 

 

At the Nursery, 11 Jun 2020, part 2 of 2

Spring digging is long done, the planting of our new liners is complete and we’re on to pruning and maintaining our growing stock.  Photos taken 11 Jun 2020.