Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oak Family

For fall folliage fans, late November and December belong to the Oaks. (Bradford Pears also wear their colors late, but tend to shed them quicker.) So, after softer woods are bare, CentalArkansas is given to the copper/coffee/cardboard tans of Oaks... many of which hold their dried out leaves deep into winter.

There are literally hundreds of Oak varieties in the World, and many dozens to be found in Arkansas. At a quick glance, many of these - by leaf, or form - appear to be so different from one another that we wonder how they could all be "oak" -- while other oaks under differnet names, appear so much alike, that it difficult to determine if they should be regarded as independent species or as subspecies in the same family. The nomenclature of ID is made all the more difficult because many related species hybidize with one another, or show substantial variation under the same label. I have even found very differnt leaf types -- on the very same tree! Beyond that, the internet and other sources don't always agree on what a given Oak species is. Look up Black Oak or Red Oak and you will find incongruent samples.
Given the great differences in Oaks, ranging from towering monoliths to sandy beach thickets, one might wonder what is it about an Oak, that makes it an Oak. Simple. Acorns.
Oaks produce acorns. If it makes an acorn... its an oak.
One web site I visited grouped Oak into two major families - The Black Oak, and the White Oak families. This can be confusing as both Black Oak, and White Oak are used to identify at the species level, and not all oaks fit into either group, however as a family name the Black Oak family represents those oaks that have sharp angular lobes, while the White Oak family generally consists of those oaks with rounded lobes.

Black Oak family (In Arkansas)
Black oak, Red oak, Southern Red Oak, Scarlet Oak, Pin Oak.

White Oak family:
White oak, Post oak, Black Jack Oak, Water Oak. Willow Oak. Chestnut Oak.

Black Oak

With a leaf that looks ever like a Pin Oak (or Red Oak) on steroids, Black Oak is dominant part of our mountain woodlands. (Ever hear of the 80's rock band - Black Oak Arkansas?) Chief attribute which sets the Black Oak apart from Pin or Red Oak is size. The Black Oak leaf is both big and broad.

Southern Red Oak

Similar in style to the Red Oak and Pin Oak, but longer. This Souther Red Oak leaf measures about 8 inces, not including the stem.

This mamoth Southern Oak, on the backside of the Arkasnas State Capitol has a diamater that I guess to be over 8 feet across. It's huge.

Tossed against a curb, the falling leaves of the Souther Oak, tend to rest back side up. (since they curl toward the face, the wind blown them till they lodge face down.

Red Oak

I'm not totally sure of my Id's on these (and especially the last leaf) as the Red Oak is similar and in size and width to the Black Oak, and only slightly thicker than a Pin Oak -- and shorter than the Southern Red Oak. Beyond that, the Red of the Red Oak (and the Black of the Black Oak) is not about leaf color, but about wood color... so any guess based on Fall color is secondary.
Of interest: The last leaf looks more or less symmetrical, but a quick look at the vein structure showcases a common attribute of oak leaves, alternating vein branches.

Pin Oak

12/8/2008 I'd hoped to have a little stronger image of the Pin Oak as they are a dominant species. Only problem, right now they look like so much curled cardboard. (The tree often holds the leaves across the winter, looking rather like a dried husk.
By contrast to the black or red oak, the center 'shaft" of the Pin Oak is much thinner, and the points on the lobes more pin like.

Scarlet Oak (uncertain)

To be honest, I am not sure if this is Scarlet Oak, a Cherrybark Oak, or some other variation of a Pin Oak. By contrast to the Red oak, the leaf is small (about three to four inches long excluding stem). This particular tree, as of early December was still mostly clothed, and dressed in Hershey brown.

White Oak

Place holder

Friday, November 13, 2009

White Oak (maybe)

White Oak/ Black jack oak hybrid?

White Oak/Red Oak, Black Oak, Blackjack oak hybrid?

One of the real challenges for those who identify oak varieties is this: Many varieties of oak hybridize with one another (or are simply too closely related --- and share common family attributes) A guide I have used to identify Oaks, shows the highly lobed variety found at top as a "white oak" though it differs considerably from the narrow lesser lobed variety showcased in the White Oak entry above. The third and fourth photos have attributes I identify with white oak --and other oaks. I simply lack the expertise to break these down any further.

Post Oak (White Box Oak)

Post Oak or Scrub Oak? (it would help if I could find the acorn)

I hope I have my ID's right here. The Leaf of the Post Oak sometimes looks very much like the white oak, or the smaller scrub oak.

Black Jack Oak

All the Blackjack I've encountered have been something a brushy rogue variety, though I think they grow big too. The Blackjack leaf (I I have correctly identified these) can look something like a white oak, but the shape is notably triangular, wide at the end and, with only minor lobe differentiation.

Chestnut Oak

Chestnut Oak : Quercus prinus
(of the White Oak family)
My first thought is that this Oak (leaf) will be easier to identify than others, in that it hardly looks like any of the other oaks. But now I'm not sure. The photos on the web of the Chestnut Oak generally show a somewhat broader and slighlty lobed elongated leaf. I may have to change my ID with more information

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Willow Oak

Willow Oak

Water Oak

Similar to the willow oak, but with widening at the tip. Water...Think paddle.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Maple Family

A quick survey of the Internet shows that there are hundreds of various trees in the Maple family, with a strong showing of that variation found in Arkansas. (The most common trait of those trees we call Maples is the winged whirly-bird seed.) In trying to capture some of those variants, I am struck with the problem which faces any who would classify. When--given genetic drift or regional variation--is something rightly regarded as its own species, a subspecies, or a "strain." The task is even more daunting given many maples are selectively bred for ornamental purposes.

For my limited purposes, I have presented five major groups of maples common to Arkansas. These include both "types" and species (I did not include Japanese Maple, as these do not appear part of the natural landscape.) I may yet find out if my observations are even close to those who do this professionally. Here are the categories I am working with at present.

1) Sugar Maple (or Maple Maple, the kind of leaf we see on the Canadian flag.)

2) Red Maple: Contrary to the name, Red Maple leafs are usually green (but may in Autumn, assume any of or range of colors, from limon to melon to cherry to brick.) I think they look like hanging bats.

3) Mountain Maple (Rocky Mountain Maple) Leaf tends to look like a grape leaf with diminished side lobes and some jagging.

4) Beechy Maple (Diminished lobes)

6 ) Silver Tip Maple: Deeply lobed, jagged, and scrappy. (our most prevalent)

Sugar Maple

For color punch and stalwart form, the Sugar Maple reigns as king in the Maple family. (See the Canadian flag)
Our Arkansas variety may lack the height or punch of those that we wee in New England Calendars, but really spice a hill side mixed in Oak and evergreen.
Sugar Maples showcase a distinct Autumnal undress. The top branches bare first, leaving an ever diminishing ball at the base.

Sugarish Maples (Simular but not)

Truth is, I can't tell you what these are. They look like Sugar Maples, but with different characteristics. The yellow specimen above showcases a smaller leaf, with much denser distribution pattern in the leaves and brances. The one outside the Arkansas Capitol is still very much dressed (11/23/08) while the Sugar Maples in vicinity are mostly naked.
The Red variety (which might more aptly be called "Red Maple" showcases the Sugar Maple leaf, but appears to be a dwarfed ornamental hybrid.