Among Our Trees Walking Tour

PDF map of Walking Tour

1. American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
When you cross over water, either on foot or by car, look for the stark white trunks and flaky “camouflage” bark of American sycamore along the river banks. It’s especially easy to see them in winter. Sycamores are among the biggest trees in the southeast, and old trees often have hollow centers. Scientists once discovered a colony of more than 100 endangered Indiana bats in a hollow sycamore tree.

2. Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Redbud is one of our most beautiful flowering native trees. It typically blooms bright pink in March, and can easily be seen along woodland edges from a speeding car’s window. The flowers are edible, as are the young, pea-like seedpods. Both make a nice addition to a fresh green salad.

3. White Oak (Quercus alba)
White oak is an abundant and widespread tree found throughout eastern North America on all but the driest shallow sites. Loved by many, it serves several aesthetic and ecological purposes. Its tall spreading form and purplish-red fall foliage adorn our yards and natural areas; its high quality wood is valued for timber; and its acorns provide food for over 180 species of birds and mammals. Additionally, over 500 species of butterflies and moths rely on oaks, in general, for food and shelter. Impressive!

4. Atlantic White-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides)
Atlantic white-cedar is a commercially important, eastern evergreen tree commonly found in small, dense stands in fresh water swamps and bogs near the coast. The wood is desired for its durability, light weight, resistance to weathering, and is frequently used for telephone poles, pilings, ties, boat railings and siding. In fact, salvaged wood from a group of Atlantic white-cedar trees blown over in a hurricane in eastern North Carolina was used as siding on the Garden’s education center.

5. American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
American beech is easily identified by is smooth, gray bark. It can grow to be one of the largest trees in the forest, more than 100 feet tall. Native Americans and early settlers used the leaves to stuff mattresses because they did not crumble. They also used the hard wood to make bowls because its fine grain does not absorb water.

6. Downy Service-berry (Amelanchier arborea)
Downy service-berry is a tree with a lot to offer. In the spring, white flowers droop from its branches, followed in the summer by dark red-purple edible berries. The berries resemble blueberries but are even sweeter! Birds of all kinds flock to this species and competition for theses berries can be fierce. Ranging from Canada to the southeastern US, downy service-berry is typically found in our area along forest edges and open woodlands. Look for this species in flower in the spring when they are most notable.

7. Short-leaf Pine (Pinus echinata)
Native from the coastal plain to the foothills of the Appalachians and points west of the Mississippi, short-leaf pine has the widest geographic range of any of the southern yellow pines. Commonly overlapping with loblolly pine, several physical characteristics are useful for differentiating short-leaf pine from its close cousin. 1) Short-leaf pine needles and cones are shorter and smaller; 2) the bark of larger short-leaf pines tend to be flakier and less deeply furrowed; and 3) the bark of short-leaf pine is commonly dotted with small spots of resin. Compare the short-leaf pine in front of you to the loblolly pine you will visit next on the tour.

8. Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)
Loblolly pine is the dominant pine species of the eastern coastal plain and piedmont. Four hundred years ago, this species was confined to the coastal plain on moist sites and along streams. The meteoric spread of this species is due primarily to fire suppression, land clearing for agriculture, and the species’ ability to aggressively colonize old fields. Loblolly pine has also been planted extensively throughout the southeast in tree plantations for timber, plywood, pulp and paper, wood chips and pine bark mulch.

9. White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
White fringetree gets its name from its clouds of white, fringed flowers in the spring. These flowers hang down from the branches, conjuring another common name for this species: old man’s beard. It is undervalued as a landscape plant, but a good choice for gardeners who want a unique and showy native tree.

10. Eastern Red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Eastern red-cedar is a common evergreen tree species of the eastern and central US. It enjoys a broad habitat range and can be found growing from sea level to the southern Appalachians, on sand dunes and dry uplands to flood plains and limestone outcrops. Its adaptability and variable form (narrow and columnar to broad and bushy) make eastern red-cedar suitable for ornamental purposes. Only one type of flower is formed on each tree. Look for the blue ‘berries” of the female and the yellowish-brown cones of the male.

11. Eastern Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Eastern red maple is one of the most common trees in the eastern United States. It grows in many different sunlight and soil conditions, and has beautiful fall color. For these reasons, it is a popular choice for the home landscape. Its wood is easy to work with and has been used to build many things, including guitars.

12. American Holly (Ilex opaca)
American holly is easily found in forests across North Carolina. Each individual tree is either a male or a female, but only the females produce bright red berries. The dark green leaves and red berries make for popular Christmas decorations. The berries often remain on the plant through the winter because they have very little fat, making them less desirable to birds.

13. Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)
Southern red oak is a common upland oak of the southeastern United States. Unlike oaks in the white oak group, acorns of the red oak group take two years to mature. The white oak group produces mature acorns approximately four months after the flowers are pollinated. Like white oaks, red oaks support a broad array of birds, mammals and insects.

14. Tulip-tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Hold up a leaf from a tulip-tree and see if you can find a cat’s ears and whiskers! In spring, look on the ground for green and orange cupped, tulip-like flowers. You might pluck a tepal from a fresh flower and taste the nectar. Tulip-tree grows rapidly, is long-lived, and is especially common in the mountains below 3000 feet. Four-hundred-year-old tulip-trees grow in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, where you’ll need two friends to link arms with you to reach around the largest specimens.

15. Sweet-gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Sweet-gum was given its name because early settlers would use sap from the tree as chewing gum. Sweet-gum in an adaptable tree that can be found growing nearly everywhere in the southeast, with the exception of the mountains. It is easily identified by its star-shaped leaves, round spiked seedpods, and bark that resembles alligator skin. Its hard wood is used for many things, including veneer for plywood.

16. Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana)
Carpinus caroliniana has several common names. The names ironwood and hornbeam are derived from the tree’s hard dense wood. “Horn” referring to “hard like a horn” and “beam” comes from “baum,” the German word for tree. A third common name, musclewood, comes from the tree’s sinewy, ropy trunk. This small tree prefers moist sites throughout the south and into the Mid-Atlantic States, and west past the Mississippi River. Look for the small seeds, or nutlets, each with its own small leaf-like bract to help it disperse.

17. Common Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)
Ever eaten a pawpaw?! If you have, it came from a tree similar to the one in front of you. Pawpaw fruits are yellowish-green to black, oblong fruits resembling potatoes and taste like a cross between a banana and a mango. A valuable food source for Native American Indians and early European settlers, pawpaw then and today are eaten raw or cooked into pudding, bread and even ice cream.

18. Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Sassafras is one of our most beautiful native trees. It has showy yellow flowers in the spring, shiny purple berries in the summer, and vibrant orange leaves in the fall. Early colonists believed the root was a cure-all for many diseases, and shipped large amounts to Europe. The root was also used to flavor root beer.

19. Sweet-bay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)
Sweet-bay magnolia is one of six different species of Magnolia native to North Carolina. It is commonly found growing in the coastal plain, and it is also a good choice for the home landscapes from the coast into the piedmont. The undersides of the leaves are silver, causing the tree to shimmer with a light breeze. The white, lemon-scented flowers make it a good choice to plant near a deck or patio.

20. Big-leaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla)
The first thing you notice about this tree during the growing season is its enormous leaves! The biggest leaved tree species east of the Mississippi River, the aptly named big-leaf magnolia is found in full sun to part shade on well drained sites not commonly subjected to drought. From May to July, this tree produces large, beautiful white fragrant flowers. Our specimen may be leaning a little bit, but it still imparts the regal and unique character of this tree species.

21. Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Know eastern hemlock by its short, flat, evergreen needles and tiny cones. Found throughout the southern Appalachians below 3000 feet, eastern hemlock is in trouble. The hemlock woolly adelgid, an imported pest from southeast Asia, is killing hemlocks rapidly. Eastern hemlock grows in dense forests next to mountain streams, and its loss may harm fish, salamander, and aquatic insect populations due to an increase in water temperature resulting from a lack of shade.

22. Bald-cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Look at the wide, spreading base of the bald-cypress tree, and the knobby “knees” that grow through the soil around the tree. These traits show that these trees are specially adapted for life along river edges and shallow ponds. Valued for its decay resistance, bald-cypress swamps were extensively cut and harvested. Old-growth stands can still be found along the Black River, where individual trees are upwards of 1600 years old.

23. Pond-cypress (Taxodium ascendens)
You can find pond-cypress in the coastal plain in dense, oxygen-starved soils, such as pocosins and clay edges of Carolina bays. You can tell pond-cypress apart from the more widespread bald-cypress by the leaves. Bald cypress leaves are feathery, while pond cypress has overlapping, scaly leaves that lie flat along the twigs.

24. Long-leaf Pine (Pinus palustris)
Long-leaf pine is an iconic tree species of the coastal plain region of the southeastern US. This species grows in habitats with frequent, low-intensity fire. As a result, long-leaf pine has evolved several adaptations to withstand these fires. Seedlings of long-leaf pine form low dense tufts of needles surrounding and protecting its white growth bud from fire. After approximately three to five years, individual seedlings emerge from this “grass stage” of development and grow rapidly to reach above the dangerous fire zone. The bark of these young trees also becomes increasingly thick and resistant to fire with age.

Updated on September 11, 2015 at 02:17:52 pm.