Monthly Archives: June 2014

Sitka Alder, Alnus viridis

Sitka Alder

 Alnus viridis (Chaix) DC.ssp. sinuata, (Regel) A. Love & D. Love

Latin synonyms include, Alnus sinuata, A. crispa ssp. sinuata, and A. sitchensis.  Sitka Alder is sometimes called Mountain Alder.  Viridis means green, sinuata means curving, probably for its wavy leaves.  Sitka Alder has a similar geographic range to Red Alder but is also found from the Yukon Territory to the Rocky Mountains of Montana and Colorado. The species is also found in Siberia and Greenland.  Sitka Alder is very similar to Red Alder but is smaller and shrubbier, growing from 6 to 30 feet (2-10m).  Sitka Alder can be used instead of Red Alder where a smaller tree is desired. The wavy leaves of Sitka Alder are sharply saw-toothed and are not rolled under.  Sitka Alder often forms dense thickets that provide cover, nesting and foraging habitats for many animals.

Wetland designation: FACW, Facultative wetland, it usually occurs in wetland but is occasionally found in non-wetlands.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Manual, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees

   Thinleaf Alder, (also known as Mountain Alder), Alnus incana ssp. tenuifolia is similar to Sitka Alder; it mostly found on the east side of the Cascades.  It has leaves with doubly toothed margins.

Paper Birch, Betula papyrifera

Paper Birch                                                                            The Birch Family–Betulaceae

 Betula papyrifera Marsh.Paper Birch

(BET-yoo-la  pap-er-IH-fur-uh)

Name: Paper Birch gets its name from the way the bark on older trees will peel in thin, white, papery sheets.  It is also sometimes called Canoe Birch or White Birch.

Relationships: There are about 40 species of Birch trees in the northern temperate regions of the world, about 15 in North America.

 

 

 

Distribution of Paper Birch from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Paper Birch from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution: Paper Birch is widely distributed throughout the northern regions of North America from Alaska to Newfoundland.  It is common in the Great Lakes region and northeastern United States.  In the western U.S. it is mostly found in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana.  West of the Cascades, Paper Birch is mostly found north of the Skagit in Washington State, but may also occur in the southern Puget Sound region.

 

Growth: Paper Birch grows quickly to about 90 ft (30m).  It is short-lived, rarely living longer than 125-200 years.

Habitat: It grows best in moist sites, in open woods.

Wetland designation: FAC, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.

The white bark peels in papery sheets.

The white bark peels in papery sheets.

Diagnostic Characters: Although the white, papery bark is a good identification character for older trees, young, darker barked trees may be confused with Bitter Cherry.  Both have horizontal lines of lenticels on the bark.  The leaves of Paper Birch are sharply pointed; the margins are doubly toothed.  Paper Birches produce catkins that appear before or at the same time as the leaves.  The catkins break up at maturity

 

 

 

 

In the landscape: Paper Birches are best planted in groves, creating a woodland effect that especially highlights their distinctive white trunks.  It is best, however, to avoid planting birches next to where cars will be parked because the resident insect population may drip sticky honeydew throughout the summer!

Phenology: Bloom Period:  Mid-April to early June.  Birch pollen is also a major allergen. Small winged nutlets ripen early August to mid-September. Most are disseminated by the wind from September to November.

Propagation:  Paper Birch is easily propagated by seed, stratified at 40ºF (4ºC) for 90 days.  After treatment, sown seeds should be exposed to light at least 8 hours a day.

Use by People: Paper Birch, as its other name suggests, was used, especially by eastern natives, for canoes.  It also was also frequently used for making baskets.  The wood is commonly used for furniture, cabinets, plywood, and pulp and paper products, as well as firewood.  Paper Birch sap is tapped and made into syrup, wine, beer and medicinal tonics.

Use by Wildlife: Paper Birch is an important moose browse; deer also eat the leaves.  Hare, porcupines and beavers eat the bark and young saplings.  Birds, such as finches and chickadees, and small rodents, such as voles and shrews, eat Paper Birch seeds.  Grouse eat the catkins and buds.  Hummingbirds and squirrels may feed at sapwells created by sapsuckers.  Many cavity-nesting birds find homes in Paper Birch trees.

Shrubbier birches that may be encountered in the Pacific Northwest include: Resin Birch, B. glandulosa, Dwarf Birch, B. nana, Water Birch, B. occidentalis, and Bog Birch, B. pumila.  Water Birch is often used in ornamental landscapes.

 Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet + Landowner Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees

Red Alder, Alnus rubra

Red Alder                                                                                 The Birch Family–Betulaceae

 Alnus rubra Bong.

(AHL-nus ROOB-ruh)

Alnus rubra treesNames: Red Alder is sometimes called Oregon Alder.   Rubra means red– referring to the red dye made from its bark and the color of the wood when cut.

Relationships: There are about eight alder species that reach tree size in the United States and Canada, about 20 or 30 species worldwide.  White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia, is similar to Red Alder but is smaller; it is mostly an inland species is found in our range in northern Oregon.

Distribution of Red Alder from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Red Alder from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution: Red Alder is found from southeast Alaska to southern California, with some isolated communities in northern Idaho.

Growth: Red Alder grows rapidly and can reach 40-80 feet (15-25m).   It is relatively short-lived and rarely lives past 100 years.

Habitat:  Red Alder is most often found in moist woods and along streambanks.  It quickly colonizes recently cleared land.

Wetland designation: FAC, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.

 

 

 

 

Red Alder leaves are slightly rolled under at the margins.

Red Alder leaves are slightly rolled under at the margins.

Diagnostic Characters: Red Alder has thin, gray bark often with patches of white lichens.  Because of the whitish appearance of the bark, it is often confused with Paper Birch.  Its most distinguishing feature is its wavy, toothed leaves with revolute margins (edges that are slightly rolled under).  Long catkins appear in spring, before the leaves, producing copious amounts of pollen.  It produces small brown cone-like strobiles less than an inch (2cm) long that remain on the tree through the winter.

Woody female cone-like stabiles.

Woody female cone-like stabiles.

Alder bark with lichens and moss.

Alder bark with lichens and moss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alder trees at Camp Seymour

 

In the Landscape: Although many consider Red Alder a “weed” tree because it will often invade landscapes, this tree is the first choice for ecological restoration.  Red Alder is a host to nitrogen-fixing bacteria that form nodules on tree roots.  Because of this association, the introduction of Red Alder to disturbed sites can quickly improve the fertility of soils, making the site more amenable to colonization by longer-living conifers.  Red Alder can form attractive groves in young forests, especially along rivers and streams.

 

 

Phenology: Bloom Period:  February to April.  Alder pollen is a major allergen. The cone-like strobiles shed large amounts of small winged nutlets September to December.  Wind dissemination is very effective for natural regeneration.

Male catkins.

Male catkins.

Female strobiles with immature male strobiles in the background..

Female strobiles with immature male strobiles in the background..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Propagation:  It is extremely easy to propagate by seed; no treatment is necessary, only sunlight is required.  “Volunteers” weeded out of other areas can be easily potted up or transplanted to more appropriate locations.

Use by people: The wood of Red Alder was second only to Cedars in its use for woodworking by natives.  Dishes, spoons, platters, masks and many other items were made from Red Alder wood.  Alder wood is considered the best wood for smoking salmon.  A red or orange dye was made from the bark to color red cedar bark and to make fishnets invisible to fish.  The bark of Red Alder was also valued for its medicinal qualities; it is known to have antibiotic properties and contains salicin, which is used to make aspirin.  Red Alder is the most important hardwood in the Pacific Northwest.  It is used for furniture, cabinetry, small manufactured items, paper and paper products.  The hard wood burns hot and relatively long, making it an excellent choice for firewood.

Use by wildlife: Finches eat the seeds of Red Alder.  Deer and elk eat the leaves, twigs and buds of young trees.  Stands of Red Alder are favorable habitat for deer, especially on hot days in summer and early fall. Beavers eat the bark and use the stems for building dams and lodges.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Manual, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet + Landowner Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees

Golden Chinquapin, Chrysolepis chrysophylla

Golden Chinquapin                                                                  The Beech Family–Fagaceae

Golden Chinquapin trees tend to be narrow and pyramidal.

Golden Chinquapin trees tend to be narrow and pyramidal.

Chrysolepis chrysophylla (Douglas x Hook.) Hjelmqvist

(Cry-so-LEE-pis  cry-so-FILL-uh)                   

Names: This evergreen tree has also been known as Castanopsis chrysophylla; Castanopsis means resembling chestnuts, (the genus Castanea).  Chrysolepis means golden scales; chrysophylla means golden leaves.  Both refer to the golden scales on the undersides of its leaves.  Chinquapin (also spelled Chinkapin) is thought to be from an Algonquin term for chestnut.

Relationships: Golden Chinquapin is a relative of chestnuts.  There are only two species in this genus; the Golden Chinquapin (aka Giant Chinquapin) the other is the Bush Chinquapin, Chrysolepis sempervirens, a shrub of California and southern Oregon.

Distribution of Golden Chinkapin from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Golden Chinkapin from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution: Golden Chinquapin is also mostly found in California and Oregon with two small disjunctive populations in Washington; one in Skamania County along the Columbia River Gorge, the other in Mason County close to the Hood Canal.  It is listed as a sensitive species in Washington State.

Growth: Golden Chinquapin grows slowly to 30-100 feet (10-30m).

Habitat: It is usually found on dry, open, south-facing sites and rocky ridgetops.  It can also be found in fairly thick woodlands.

Like related chestnuts or oaks, Chinquapins will produce galls induced by small wasps.

Like related chestnuts or oaks, Chinquapins will produce galls induced by small wasps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The undersides of the leaves have fuzzy golden scales.

The undersides of the leaves have fuzzy golden scales.

Diagnostic Characters: This shrubby tree is easily recognized by its dark, glossy, lance-shaped leaves with golden scales on the undersurface.  It produces creamy, white flowers in upright catkins sometime between February and July.  In the fall, one to three nuts are produced in a spiny burr, resembling the husk of chestnuts.  The bark is smooth on young trees; on older trees it is thick and heavily furrowed, broken into reddish plates.

 

In the Landscape: Chinquapin is best grown as a specimen tree in drier parts of your garden.  Its rarity in our area and its distinctive appearance can add a contrasting element of texture to your landscape.

Golden Chinkapin flowersPhenology: Bloom Period:  Mid-June to mid-July. Nuts ripen in mid-August to early September; seeds are dispersed from September through December by birds and rodents, but will also just drop to the ground.

Propagation:  Sow nuts as soon as they are ripe, but protect them from rodents. Because of its sensitive status in Washington, be very conscientious and respectful when collecting in the wild!

Use by People: The wood of Golden Chinquapin is hard and strong but is rarely found in sufficient quantities to be useful commercially.  The nuts were roasted and eaten by natives of California and Southern Oregon.

The nuts are encased in a prickly husk.

The nuts are encased in a prickly husk.

Use by Wildlife: The nuts are nutritious and eaten by small mammals, but are produced too irregularly to be a major component of their diet. Jays enjoy them, too.  Golden Chinquapin is the only known host to the Golden Streak Butterfly.  This Butterfly is a Washington State threatened species and listed as sensitive by the US Forest Service.  It has been found associated with the Skamania County population but has not been found within the Mason County population.

A tall Chinquapin tree near the Hood Canal

A tall Chinquapin tree near the Hood Canal

 

 Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

Jepson Manual, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database (a related species)

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees