Category Archives: Education

Robbed!

This, I believe, is a carpenter bee (Xylocopa spp.), and I caught it collecting nectar from some salvia I have growing in my front yard (Salvia guaranitica ‘Black & Blue’). It appears to be doing exactly what I find described by Steve Buchman of The Bee Works:

From time to time carpenter bees are quite ingenious in their foraging for nectar. On flowers such as salvias, penstemons, and other long, tubular flowers the carpenter bee, due to its large size, is unable to enter the flower opening. Instead they become nectar robbers. Using their mouthparts they cut a slit at the base of corolla and steal away with the nectar without having pollinated the flower.

Linden

I was walking through Freedom Park during this rainy September, and these leaves caught my eye. Aren’t they lovely?

The shape is “cordate,” related to such words as cardiac, concord, discord, accord, and cordial. In other words, these leaves are heart-shaped.

These are the leaves of a linden tree, and more exactly, of an American linden. The scientific name is Tilia americana. (There are some 45 species of lindens around the world. Inman Park has a second, European species, Tilia cordata or littleleaf linden, in front of 100 Waverly Way.)

It’s also called basswood, where the prefix bass- refers not to music or fish but to “bast.” Bast is the inner, fibrous bark of linden trees, which Native Americans made into twine. (At some point lind- became “lime” in British English, so if you read about “lime” trees lining some road in Europe, don’t be thinking about citrus trees.)

I love American linden. Here’s a large one in Freedom Park:

It’s native to our region. It grows fast. It can reach 100 feet or more. It can live for well over a century. It is easy to transplant. And it flowers!

Photo credit: Donald Cameron

No surprise that American linden is also called bee tree.

Photo credit: Wayne Hinshaw

I also love this bit of knowledge from Diana Beresford-Kroeger, Arboretum America: A Philosophy of the Forest:

“The design of each flower is such that the nectar produced on the inside of the sepal cannot be lost by rain or dew. This is because these flowers hang upside down and act like little umbrellas. The nectar, too, hangs in solution upside down. But the sepal produces a few fine hairs that, together with the physics of surface tension, are just enough force to hold the liquid in place without splashing down onto the grass underneath the tree.”

We’ve been planting more of these American lindens in Inman Park. Good for the pollinators, good for the neighborhood! Here’s one in the yard of Bill and Ann Moore:

Delta Park

I had a pleasant walk with the German shepherd this Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend: cool and quiet in Inman Park.

We walked past Delta Park, near the intersection of Edgewood and Euclid.

It made me think of something I read about years ago: a theory or model in environmental psychology. (Yes, there is such a thing.)

Continue reading Delta Park

White Wood Aster

I’m here to say that I planted this last fall, and now I’m in love. Eurybia divaricata, white wood aster.

More info from the Missouri Botanical Garden:

Eurybia divaricata is native to Eastern U.S. and typically grows in the wild in dry open woods. It grows in loose clumps with dark, sprawling, sometimes zigzag stems up to 2.5′ tall. Distinctive leaves are heart-shaped, stalked and coarsely toothed. Small but abundant flowers (to 1 inch across) have white rays and yellow to red center disks and appear in flat-topped, terminal clusters in late summer to early fall. Attractive to butterflies.

That’s it. That’s the post.

Credit: Anita Gould

Arborglyphs

In an earlier post, about American beech, I included a shocking confession: I tend not to get all hot and bothered when I see that someone has carved letters or an image into the bark of a tree. I know it’s wrong to injure a tree willy-nilly, but I can’t help myself. It’s the romantic in me, and maybe also the professor of literature and history.

Carvings on a beech tree in New York’s Central Park — is that an image of a tree carved on this tree?

It goes back quite a ways, this practice of carving upon trees.

Continue reading Arborglyphs

The Poetry of Trees

In my backyard stands an American beech (Fagus grandifolia), 20 years old.

American beech (photo from November 2018)

I know it’s two decades old because it was a gift to my wife from her sister on her 40th birthday in 1991. It’s meant to remind her of the copper beach (Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea) that grew in front of their childhood home near Philadelphia.

On any given day, American beech is my favorite tree. Why? Well, obviously, it’s that smooth, gray bark that draws the eye in a forest of furrowed, ridged, warty, and scaly trees.

Beech tree (center) in Springvale Park
Continue reading The Poetry of Trees

Also This

The other day I wrote about bark inclusion.

The UK arborist I mentioned there, Dr. Duncan Slater, has done extensive field work to document the conditions under which bark inclusion appears common.

It shouldn’t be a surprise.

If we start from the premise that, in the same way that our physical strength is developed by the strain we put upon our muscles, tree “strength” is developed in part by the strain that gravity and wind put upon wood, it makes total sense that anything preventing a tree from experiencing that strain can be detrimental to it.

And often it happens that a tree will be naturally deprived of that necessary stress or strain.

Credit: Duncan Slater

Slater calls these “natural braces.” For example, a branch from one of two equal-sized trunks of the same tree — these are called “co-dominant stems” or “double leaders” — may fuse with the second trunk. Obviously, the two parts of the tree are more nearly frozen in place. What Slater has discovered is that under such conditions, the junction between the two trunks is more likely to be weak due to bark inclusion.

So if that’s true, it’s obviously very important to eliminate a natural brace when a tree is young, but if a tree with a natural brace is older, cutting out a natural brace may be a recipe for disaster, i.e., a tree service may be increasing the chance of the tree splitting and falling on someone.

And look what I found recently in this Freedom Park oak with co-dominant stems:

Bark Inclusion

If you happen to be a tree, one of the bigger challenges you have is this: I need energy to grow and reproduce! So I’m gonna reach for sunlight, water, and nutrients. But how far and fast can I reach before something like this happens?

The photograph above shows an American elm (Ulmus americana ‘Princeton’) planted years ago by Tree Watch and Trees Atlanta in Freedom Park.

American elm is really great at reaching. It can grow fast. When it’s at home — ‘home’ being rich, alluvial soil in a forested floodplain along a river or stream — a tall American elm will have channeled so much of its energy into growing upward, in order to reach that lovely sunlight at the top of the forest, that it may have no branches at all until the 50- or 60-foot mark.

Photo credit: Christian O. Marks

Of course, an American elm growing in an open, grassy section of Freedom Park has no difficulty at all accessing sunlight. It’s like a kid left alone in a candy shop. (Think of that poor elm tree in Freedom Park as a kid with a terrible tummy ache.)

Continue reading Bark Inclusion