American Elm (Ulmus americana) – Much-loved American tree, lives up
to 300 years. Dutch elm disease, caused by a fungus, wiped out elms in large numbers
at one time but they are recovering. Leaf margin doubly toothed, opposite
sides of leaf uneven. Wafer-like seeds eaten by Gallinaceous birds and leaves
browsed by rabbits, opossum, and deer.
American Holly (Ilex opaca) – Evergreen tree with thick, poky leaves.
Red fruit ripens in Nov-Dec, and foliage and fruit are often used in holiday
decorations. Many species of birds eat the fruit.
American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) – Grayish trunk is stout and
fluted or "muscular" in appearance. Most common in rich, moist soil near streams or swamps.
American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) – Large distinct toothed leaves.
Reddish brown bark peels off in thin plates to expose the white or greenish
new bark underneath.
Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) – Deciduous conifer with feathery
needles. "Knees" protrude from water to help aerate the roots and provide structural
support. Trunk swollen at base. Cypress was highly prized by
early explorers because of the wood's durability even in contact with soil & water; it was used to
build dugout canoes by Native Americans in this region, bulkheads, and other purposes.
cypress trees once lined creeks, rivers and other waterways, but loggers removed nearly all of them.
Today, people still cut them down to create cypress mulch (though many other mulches can be used).
Many birds and wild ducks consume their seeds. The fossil
ancestors of baldcypress (including gingkos, sequioas, and incense-cedars)
once covered most of North America.
Today, baldcypress is concentrated in the swamps on SE United States. The photo was taken along
Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) – Oval-oblong finely toothed leaves. Black,
bitter-sweet fruits. Takes ten years to produce fruit, with 25-75 years old the most
prolific seed-bearing years (species name, serotina, means "late-flowering").
Bark is used medicinally for coughs. Fruit is used as a flavoring extract,
and fruits are eaten by people as well as many wildlife species – 33 birds, raccoons,
opossum, squirrel, bear, and rabbit. Wood used for furniture, interior trim, and
scientific instruments. Cultivated for ornamental use. Tree grows to 100 feet.
Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) – The flowers serve as bee food ("Tupelo honey"),
the fruit is eaten by 32 species of birds, and the foliage is browsed by black bear (now extinct
from east Texas) and white-tailed deer.
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) – Pinnately compound leaves, 1-2 feet long,
beautiful dark brown wood used commercially for furniture, cabinets, musical
instruments, caskets. Nuts used commercially (walnuts) and were a favorite of
Native Americans. Squirrels like the nuts also.
Black Willow (Salix nigra) – Long, thing leaves. Common near water,
in wet soil. The bark was formerly used in home remedies for fever, and is
the origin of aspirin (salicylic acid). The wood is used for artificial limbs.
Carolina Buckthorn (Rhamnus caroliniana) – Small tree to 35 feet. Elliptic
leaves with prominent, parallel veins. Fruit eaten by several bird species,
especially the catbird.
Carolina Cherry-Laurel (Prunus caroliniana) – Evergreen tree with toothed
lanceolate leaves. Also called Laurel-Cherry. The leaves contain prussic acid,
which is harmful to livestock. The seeds are eaten by many birds. Tree is widely
cultivated and can be trained into hedges.
Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) – Evergreen tree. Wood used to
make cedar chests, etc – thought to repel insects because of its aromatic nature.
The capital of Louisiana (Baton Rouge) is French for "red stick' which refers
to the red wood of the redcedar. In parts of the south, redcedar is an
"invasive" species taking over cleared fields that used to be mixed hardwood forests.
Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) – Spade-shaped leaves.
Alamo is the Spanish name for the tree. The leaves flutter rapidly and make a
rustling sound. Rose-breasted and evening grosbeaks eat the seeds.
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) – Shrub or tree to 40 ft.
Oval leaves. Large white flowers, blooms from Mar-June. Fruit eaten by
28 species of birds, a preferred food of wild turkey, quail, and deer.
Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) – Pinnately compound leaf usually
with 7 leaflets. Wood used for tool handles, furniture, interior finishing.
Seeds eaten by birds and foliage browsed by deer and rabbits.
Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) – Often called Ironwood for its very hard,
heavy wood. Slow-growing. Found in moist woods. Fruit is eaten by at least
5 species of birds. Has woolly (pubescent) leaves and twigs.
Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) Has needles in between longleaf and shortleaf pine - at about
6-9" usually in bundles of 3. Because they grow fast, these were planted throughout the southeast U.S..
They are native, but occur in greater proportions than historically because so many longleafs were logged
and replanted with loblolly.
Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) The longest needles for any pine in the region,
This species grows very slowly, and used to be a dominant tree in the southeastern U.S..
covering 30-60 million acres. Prized for its straight hard timber, vast swaths of the pines
were destroyed and very few old growth stands remain. A few longleaf pines grow along Spring Creek.
They have a fascinating life history. The seedlings live in a grass stage for years,
where they resemble a small clump of grass (though it has a deep root).
At a certain point, the sapling will shoot up to several feet in a single growing season. The endangered
red-cockaded woodpecker uses old-growth longleaf and loblolly pines to excavate cavities in.
It is also referred to as "yellow pine" because of the color it turns when stained.
Mexican Plum (Prunus mexicana) – Small tree to 25 feet. Finely toothed
oval leaves. Drought-resistant. Found in TX, OK, AR, MO, KY, TN, MO and NE Mexico
Pecan (Carya illinoisensis) – Pinnately compound leaves. Nuts
oblong. Found in rich, river-bottom soil in the SE U.S. The nut is valuable
to wildlife, eaten by many birds, squirrels, opossum, and raccoon.
Nuts are also grown commercially.
Redbay (Persea borbonia) – Elliptical, aromatic 3-4" long leaves used in
Cajun spices ("Bay leaf"). Found along rich, sandy soils of riverbanks in
southeast U.S. Crush a leaf in your hand, and smell the fresh scent!
Heart-shaped leaves, beautiful purplish
red buds in the springtime before new leaves have sprouted; hence the name "Redbud."
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) –
A short-lived but rapid-growing tree, often planted as an ornamental. Wood used
for flooring and furniture. Five-lobed leaves, with silvery underside.
Fruit a two-winged samara, eaten by many bird species and squirrels. One of the
few native trees that turns brilliant colors in Leaves have
3-5 lobes and a whitish underside.
(Morus rubra) – Three different leaf shapes: ovate,
2-lobed (glove), or 3-lobed. Mulberry fruits similar to a blackberry.
Eaten by at least 21 species of birds, squirrels, and people. Fibrous
bark was used to make cloth by Native Americans.
River Birch (Betula nigra) – Found near water, sometimes used for
erosion control. Bark peels into papery strips. Foliage browsed by deer and seeds
eaten by birds.
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – Leaves take on 3 shapes:
elliptical, 2-lobed (glove), or 3-lobed. Fruit eaten by 28 species of birds,
leaves browsed by deer, swamp rabbit, and black bear. Roots can be used to make
sassafras tea. When boiled together with Smilax vine, it created the original root beer,
made by Native Americans!
Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) Has 2 and 3-bundled pine needles (mostly 2), short
2.5"-long needles. Cones are small, compact, 1.5-2.5" long.
Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) – Pinnately compound leaves (like pecan and walnut).
Small tree or thicket- forming shrub that produces red clusters of fruit. Thirty-two
species of birds plus other wildlife are known to feed on it, including turkey,
bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbits, and deer. Twigs, leaves, and roots contain
tannin used for dyeing.
Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) – Large, evergreen tree with large,
oval leaves. Beautiful large (8"), white flowers. Found in rich, moist soil of
southeast U.S. Seeds eaten by 5 species of birds and by squirrels. Widely cultivated.
Sapsuckers, a woodpecker species, love to drill holes in magnolia tree trunks, and their
bark is often riddled with sapsucker holes.
Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata) – Leaves with 3-7 bristle-tipped lobes.
Is a variable species, with intergrading forms throughout its range, hybridizes with
other red oaks.
Sugar Hackberry (aka Sugarberry) (Celtis laevigata) – Lanceolate leaves
with smooth edges. Fruit eaten by 10 species of birds, especially Gallinaceous birds
(quail, pheasants, wild turkey, grouse). Gray bark has warty growths.
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) – Five-lobed leaves, twigs with
corky wings. Genus name (Liquidambar) refers to the amber-colored sap, which has
been used as chewing gum, for healing wounds, to treat dysentery and diarrhea,
and as a perfuming agent in soaps. At least 25 species of birds eat the fruit.
The source of poky "gum balls."
Two-winged Silverbell (Halesia diptera) – Small tree to 30 feet.
Bell-like, white flowers. Found in sandy, moist soils along streams or in bottomlands.
Water Oak (Quercus nigra) – Shovel-shaped (spatulate) leaves.
Found near streams or swamps.
Winged Elm (Ulmus alata) – Corky "wings" on twigs and branches.
Doubly toothed leaves narrower than American Elm. Seed (samara) and wing reddish and hairy.
A FEW DISTINCTIVE SHRUBS
Declining throughout the region, native bamboo used to form dense thickets. Native
Americans used the bamboo to create blowguns, as well as bedframes and fishing poles.
Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) – Shrub or small tree to
18 ft. Round, white, button-ball flowers. Nut eaten by many water birds.
Drummond Rattle-box (Sesbania drummondii) – Short-lived woody shrub of
low, wet areas. A legume that produces a 4-sided pod that rattles when dry. Seeds
are poisonous to livestock, especially sheep and goats. Causes diarrhea, weakness,
lethargy 1-2 days after eaten.
Palmetto (Sabal minor) – An under-story plant in the Palm family. You
may associate these with the swamps of Florida or Louisiana but they're found in abundance
throughout our region, particularly in moist low-lying areas.
Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) – An under-story evergreen shrub that has bright
red berries. Soldiers used to make "coffee" from the leaves during the civil war.
Karankawa and Akokisa Indians used the berries (leaves?) to make a purgative tea;
in other words, it makes you throw up; hence the scientific name, Ilex vomitoria!
Chinese Tallow-tree (Sapium sebiferum) – Non-native tree that has escaped
cultivation to become an extreme nuisance, outcompeting native tree species that are
crucial to wildlife and the southeastern ecosystem integrity. Can grow in moist or
dry, hot or cold conditions, highlands or lowlands, and seeds prolifically. Can
reproduce by cuttings. Rice University biologists are studying the ecology of its invasion.