decorah envirothon - northeast iowa trees and their values
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Northeast Iowa Trees and their Values
Northeast Iowa Trees and their Values
Pictured here is a grand old white oak.1
Trees give the land a lasting character as they grow
The broad, spreading crown of oak trees can give the woods a distinctive shape.2
Oak trees, like this giant fanning Bur Oak tree, have tons of character
Trees with a broad shape that have grown up without a lot of competition for sunlight are often called Wolf Trees. Foresters gave them that name because they believed that these trees preyed upon resources like a wolf. That can be true to some extent, but the aesthetic, wildlife, and reproductive characteristics of wolf trees argue in favor of keeping wolf trees.3
Bur oak trees look best when they can spread their limbs out wide, like out on the edge of the old prairie only the pioneers would have witnessed
Bur oaks have very thick corky bark for fending off those pesky prairie fires of the past
Bur oak limbs can be corky-looking too after leaf fall
Bur oak leaves have super-wide fat heads
Bur oak acorn caps have namesake furry burrs
Bur oak wood makes fine sturdy furniture
Unlike their furry Bur Oak cousins, White Oak acorns have hairless caps.
By the way, bur oak acorn and some white oak acorn meats can be eaten raw like peanuts.
All acorn flours, with some work, will make tasty bread.
White Oak trees are by far the best trees from a wildlife, and people perspective too.Notice the pale, scaly bark
White Oaks were certainly the smart choice for serving as Iowas scenic state tree
White oak wood made great wagon wheels for moving pioneer families across the plains
AWhite oak wood also made waterproof whiskey kegs
White oaks tight wood grain breathes and is still used to give the whiskey or wine good taste.
White oak leaves have deep rounded lobes right to the top and turn a rusty orange tint in autumn
Representing another major oak group in Iowa, Red Oak leaves have bristle-tipped lobes and often turn a scorching scarlet in the fall.By the way, red men shoot pointed arrows (Red Oaks) and white men shoot rounded bullets (White Oaks).
Young Red Oak trees showing off in the morning sun.
These young red oaks are colonizing an open, south-facing slope next to Lake Meyer. Gorgeous!19
Large Red Oak tree trunks have deeply furrowed bark
Red oak trees flower in May, right along with all other oaks, about a dozen species found growing around Iowa.
Red oak acorns take two years to mature and are too full of bitter tannin to eat right from the tree, at least for persnickety people.
Many mammals like this deer, besides myriad birds and bugs eat those red oak acorns with relish though
Red oak trees make terrific firewood
Red oak trees add some winter color splashes as they often hold those burnt sienna leaves until spring.
Pin oak trees are picturesque runts in the red oak family
Pin oak trees are named for all the pins sticking out from those bigger branches.
Pin oaks tough wood is great for barn-building timbers
Pin oaks tough wood is great for barn-building timbers
Pin oak leaves are DEEPLY indented
Pin oak acorns are really cradled in their cups
Pin oak acorns are fox squirrel candy
In contrast, Black oak tree leaves have very shallow lobes
Black oak tree bark has a very high tannin content, and was collected a century ago when the trees were cut for lumber
Hides for leather clothes and boots were once tanned with black oak bark
Leather tanning factory from the 1800s
Look for Oak galls (oak apples) to be growing on any old oak tree
Oak galls were crushed to make a permanent black writing ink in the distant past
Shagbark hickory trees are another wonderful wildlife tree
Notice how the healthy bark peels off in big distinct plates
Woodland bats like to roost under those peeling hickory bark plates
Roosting evening bat
Shagbark hickory bud break in spring looks like an orchid explosion
Shagbark Hickory trees have compound leaves containing five to nine leaflets.
Shagbark hickory nuts form in summer and are encased in a four-part husk.Note the five- leaflet compound leaf
Shagbark hickory nuts, once husked, are super nutritious and delicious for all forest consumers
Shagbark hickory nuts ready to be cracked for treats
Shagbark hickory nut-spiced cookies
Shagbark hickory wood was used for tool handles before plastics came around since its so good at absorbing shock. Also great flavor for smoking meat
Shagbark hickories turn a pretty rusty gold in autumn
Pignut hickory leaves look similar to shagbark hickory, so look for another other ID clue
Pignut hickory bark is smooth and blue-gray, and never peels from the trunk
Pignut hickory nuts are mostly shell and contain little meat, disappointing for us but good for critters
For instance, Pioneers pigs grew fat foraging on pignut hickory nuts falling out in the pastured woods
Black walnut trees have distinctive dark boles (trunks)
Black walnut tree leaves are long and compound with a dozen or more leaflets
Young tender green black walnuts can be pickled in summer when still pierced with a pin
Black walnut leaves turn mustard yellow in early October
Black walnuts are a favorite food source for squirrels and other critters that can crack their hard shells
We can harvest and crack black walnuts for future use when they fall to the ground in October too
Black walnuts ready to be cracked open with a hammer.
Black walnut nutmeats are stuck inside little cells.
Black walnut nutmeats are a tasty topping and flavor condiment
Black walnut wood is highly prized for beautiful fine furniture pieces
Black walnut wood is the top choice for sporting gunstocks as it takes a super-smooth polish, and more importantly, the wood never warps
Butternut trees are sometimes called white walnuts. Notice the pale trunk color
Butternut leaves look a lot like walnut leaves
Butternuts though, are more cylindrical than walnuts. Those husks are also hairy and sticky
Butternuts taste great. They are very oily (buttery) and dont keep as well as regular black walnuts.
Butternut wood has a beautiful grain and golden hue
Many old church alters were made with butternut wood
Butternut trees have disappeared across most of their range due to a fungus that causes a killing disease called Butternut Canker
Sugar maple trees rate near the top as a scenic tree
Sugar maple leaves turn yellow or orange in autumn and have that iconic mapleleaf shape
Sugar maple trees look superb out in local woods every autumn
Sugar maples also make wonderful landscape trees in town
At leaf fall, sugar maples carpet the ground with a golden glowing mat
Sugar maple trees are well-known for another, but hidden treasure too
Sugar maple tree trunks are tapped in early Spring
Forty gallons of sap can be cooked and condensed into one gallon of sweet maple syrup.
Besides fine fall color and maple syrup, maple trees make a wood that cant be beat for gym floors & fiddles
Sugar maple flooring
Sometimes sugar maple wood gets spotted blemishes that are actually highly prized by furniture makers
Red maple trees are a rarer, slightly smaller cousin of the well-known sugar maple
Red maple leaves always turn brilliant red in autumn
Red maple wood makes the worlds finest musical instruments, such as a Stradivarius
Red maple wood grain sometimes rollercoasters and creates a gorgeous rare shimmering tiger stripe pattern
Black maple is another little-known cousin of the sugar maple, with broader leaves and amber foliage in the autumn woods
Silver maples are a soft variety of maple with relatively brittle branches
Silver maple leaves are deeply indented and turn topaz yellow rather late in the season often November
Silver maples are fast growing and often planted in groves and yards but they are also short-lived
Silver maples are at their best growing in a fertile floodplain forest
A walk through a silver maple stand in autumn on a sunny day can be spectacular
Silver maples simmering on the Mississippi
Silver maple leaf drop on a floodplain forest floor
Autumn Blaze is a manmade cross between Red and Silver Maple trees, giving the color and durability of Red Maple along with the faster growth found in Silver Maples.
Im still skeptical about the trees strength in a strong storm.
Boxelder trees are also called ash-leaved maples. Notice the seed keys that spin like helicopter rotors
Boxelders are weedy colonizing trees good for kids to climb but not much else
Boxelder fall color is less than stellar.
Basswood tree saplings have a smooth thin pale gray bark
Bigger basswood trees have a habit of clumping at their base
Basswood leaves are among the biggest in Iowa
Basswood leaves turn ochre yellow early in autumn
Basswood trees flower in mid-summer.
Honeybees make a delectable honey from their flowers
Besides honey, Basswood trees provide woodworkers with a soft grainless wood a carvers delight
Catalpa trees are uncommon and under- appreciated as they can look quite striking in springtime
Big white flower bundles bloom from Catalpa tree branches in early June
When catalpa flower petals fall they look like summer snowflakes on the ground
Catalpa leaves are huge, almost big as elephant ears!
Catalpa trees produce long green bean pods in early autumn.
Catalpa seed pods stay on the tree all winter long
Catalpa wood is featureless and fine for picture frames
Down south, fishermen beat Catawba worms from the trees with long poles Catalpa sphinx moth caterpillar.
Catalpa sphinx moth
Cottonwood trees rank among the states tallest individuals
Cottonwoods are the fastest growing trees in Iowa up to 6 feet per year
In springtime, cottonwood catkins look like big fat red worms
Cottonwood leaves are tough and leathery and rattle around in the hot summer breeze
Cottonwood leaves end up an awesome copper color in a good year
By the way, big old cottonwoods are no problem when growing wild out in a soybean field
Cottonwood cotton seeds can make a real mess around the tidy town house though
Cottonwood groves were favorite places for venturesome pioneers to camp for the night
Besides providing the nights firewood, early travelers on the plains carved Cottonwood trunks into canoes for crossing the mighty Missouri River
Today, Cottonwood trunks can be cut up to construct many fine shipping pallets
Bigtooth aspen is a woodland cousin of the cottonwood. Note the scalloped straw-colored leaves.
Bigtooth aspens are rather short-lived straight-trunked trees out in the woods
Pileated woodpeckers like to drill their homes into that soft punky bigtooth aspen wood
Quaking aspen is another common type in the large poplar clan
Quaking aspen leaves have slender petioles and quiver in even the slightest breeze
Quaking aspens have been called the second-largest organisms on earth. All trees in that clump are clones from one original individual
Quaking aspens or quakies turn hillsides a striking bright gold in autumn
Quaking aspens or quakies turn hillsides a striking bright saffron in autumn
Light-barked quaking aspen trees, seen here in the winter woods, can be confused with another white-barked tree.
White birch, formerly called the canoe birch, bark peels easily from the trunk.
Northern Indians sewed and glued white birch bark strips together to fashion their famous birch bark canoes canoes
White birch bark also makes a wonderful camping tinder burns even when wet
White birch is most common in cold northern climates
Here in Iowa, white birch is usually found in association with algific (cold air) slopes
White birch wood is rather hard and scentless and makes great turned salad bowls
Most white birch wood gets turned into pulp for writing paper though
White birch trees are ornamental in the woods as well as in the front yard
Birch (and quaking aspen) buds are vital visible and sustaining wildlife foods in winter
Handsome Ruffed Grouse feed heavily on those tasty nutritious buds
White birch trees can be quite picturesque even in winters desolate season
River birch grows along waterways in soggy ground the bark peels back in small plates that look like pasted potato chips
River birch trees turn golden brown along select riverbanks in October
Black willow trees also grow right alongside creeks and rivers out in the countryside
Willow leaves are simply long and skinny
Many smaller species like this sandbar willow can also be found growing in wet areas around Iowa
Willow leaves turn a sunshiny sulpher yellow in autumn
Beavers like to eat the soft tender sweet tasty wetland willow twigs
Willow bats give stressed wildlife some good winter cover
Willow wood is soft and brittle but makes fine excelsior for stuffing material
Willow wood is also used for making that messy charcoal
American elm trees are shaped like flowing spouting fountains at maturity
American elm trees with their fountainhead forms were once planted in communities all across this country
American elm leaves are noticeably toothed and very rough
American Elm leaves take on a lemon yellow tint in autumn.
Revolutionary War Era rocking chair rockers were often crafted from tough American elm wood
American elm was also the wood of choice for Revolutionary War battleships because it would not split apart when hit with British cannonballs
Today, most American elms die at about this size, due to Dutch Elm Disease
Burrowing bark beetles carry a fungus brought from Europe that clogs those vessels charged with moving water and nutrients throughout the tree
Woodpeckers, like this Downy, benefit from the American Elms demise by gaining both bark beetle food bits and plenty of punky shelter.
Morel mushroom hunters also benefit from a dying American elm tree.
Red elm trees are a plainer cousin of those esteemed American elms
Adult Red elms are sometimes known as Slippery elms
Red elms are called Slippery elms for good reason. Sly pitchers chew the muciloginous inner bark to make their notorious spitballs
Red elm wood is usually cut up to make common crates
Hackberry trees like to live in this lowland habitat
Hackberry leaves look a lot like elm leaves, without the rough backing
Hackberry bark has a very very rough texture
Hackberry tree bark can best be described as warty
Hackberry is also known as the Sugarberry, for the sweet purple fruits that form in the fall
Black cherry trees also make a purple fruit early in the fall
Black Cherry trees blossom in May
Black cherry tree leaves typically turn orange in October.
Black Cherry tree bark looks scaly like a snakeskin
Black Cherry wood is chosen for classy wood caskets
Mulberries make another tasty tree berry treat. This is the native Red Mulberry Tree
Mulberry trees are rather small and somewhat weedy
Mulberry leaves are variable in shape, but some usually look lobed like gloves or mittens
Red Mulberries are usually purple-ripe about the beginning of July
Honey locust trees have delicate-looking white flowers blooming in the spring
Honey locusts tiny compound leaves help give the tree a light airy appearance as well
Honey locust leaves have many small rounded leaflets spreading on the stem
Honey locust trees have flaxen foliage in autumn
Honey locust wood is hard and resistant to rot and makes great lasting fence posts
Honey locust trees produce problematic messy pods for the fussy homeowner
Wild honey locust tree trunks sport long sharp dangerous spines
Black Locust tree trunks have shorter spikes sticking out
Black locust trees have pretty flower bouquets in early June
Black locust leaves look a lot like honey locust leaves
Black locust trees can become invasive, spreading out by long runners reaching up from underground
Seeds from their pealike pods can also spread black locust trees around
Black locust tree wood is very dense and planted on purpose in the past for splitting the best-burning firewood
White ash is a common canopy tree in wetter woodlands
White ash trees typically grow tall and straight
White ash bark is deeply cut into myriad diamond patterns. Notice the seeds, which are sometimes called bird tongue keys
White ash leaves are made of many copycat leaflets
White ash wood is the only wood used for the famous Louisville Slugger baseball bats.White ash is also great for snowshoes and canoe paddles because it is not only very strong, but also very light.
Green ash is a less desirable cousin of the white ash often planted in yards because it grows fast and was once thought to be disease-free (before Emerald Ash borer arrived).
All four ash trees in Iowa, including the rare black and blue species, have compound leaves that turn primrose yellow in autumn a single leaf shown here.
Several green ash trees glowing out in the autumn woods.
Kentucky coffee tree is a rare riverbottom species. Woody pods develop during the summer
Kentucky coffee tree branches look a little bulky for their comparative size
Kentucky coffee tree leaves are doubly compound
Kentucky coffee tree pods contain one to four seeds surrounded by a fleshy green paste
Kentucky coffee tree seeds can be roasted and ground into a decent cup of coffee
Kentucky coffee tree seeds are smooth and round and make excellent slingshot ammo
Ironwood trees are considered an understory tree because of their small size compared to canopy trees like oaks.Sometimes those big decorative bumps will bulge from their trunks.
Ironwood tree bark looks like it was used as a giant cat-scratching post
Ironwood trees develop little dangling catkins in the spring season
Ironwood catkins form papery pods in late summer. They look like hops, hence the Hop Hornbeam name
Ironwood leaves are simple and slightly toothed
Ironwood leaves turn a transitory aureolin in autumn.
Ironwood trees get their name from the hard dense wood they form. Pioneers used that iron wood to make gears that could take a lot of abuse without breaking.
Ironwood cogs once powered that wheel around and around for years on end
American hornbeam is closely related to ironwood, and is an uncommon understory tree. Also known as the Blue Beech because the bark is very smooth (like a beech) and bluish gray.
Another name for the American Hornbeam is Musclewood, because the trunks are usually fluted and look like blood vessels that are bulging out from a flexed muscle.
American hornbeam is just as tough as ironwood and was used to make yokes for oxen teams, as it was guaranteed to keep the big bulky beasts in check.
American hornbeam held the oxen together right behind the horns.
Trees add untold benefits to us and the world around us all year long, whether the season be summer
Or winter. What a wonderful sight.