The Big Leaf Out. It's All About the Trees
Leaves have been breaking bud and unfurling their leaves for several weeks now. The tree canopy is already peppered with green from the hickory, sweetgum and tulip poplar trees. The oaks, beech and sycamores are not far behind.
Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa) is one of several hickories common in our woods and one of the first of the big trees to begin to show its leaves. The buds are fascinating to watch emerge.
|Hickory leaves unfurling|
These leaves are food for the larval of several moths including Luna and Regal.
See my post on these showy moths here.
|As if someone is handing you a bouquet of leaves|
Within a week the tree is full of luscious lime green leaves and the tree canopy is beginning to fill in. This is where many birds and insects hangout in early spring.
Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) trees are abundant at the woodland edge. They are fast growing and establish themselves in abandoned pastures and clear-cut areas. The leaflets are soft and attractive contrasting those fat, piercing thorns.
|Black Locust leaves with thorns|
This member of the legume family is a nitrogen fixer and grows in nutrient poor soils. Also a good tree for erosion control and with our sometimes steeply sloped property is welcome. Bonus is the flowers support bees and those thorns, well let's just say its good security.
|Locust leaves and flower bud|
The tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), a member of the magnolia family, synchronizes its leaf emergence with the first sighting of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. These dainty leaves will serve as larval host of the Tuliptree Silkmoth and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly.
|emerging leaves of Tulip Poplar|
The tulip shaped leaves grow almost as quickly as my children, as my son is demonstrating in this photo.
The American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) is commencing its leaf out, while still holding on to a few of its marcescent leaves. As new growth emerges the faded leaves gently fall to the forest floor sometimes scooped up by the wind and sent drifting off further into the woods.
Beech trees are very shade tolerant and generally one of the later emerging leaves in our woods. Together with Sugar Maples they are an indication of a climax succession in a hardwood forest.
|prominent lateral veining on Beech|
A Boxelder (Acer negundo), which prefers moist conditions and generally found in floodplains, has established itself along a runoff area deep in the woods. This understory tree normally prefers sunnier conditions but seems to be content in this location.
|Male flowers on Boxelder tree|
What say you? Would you mix these two up? Maybe, if it was a seedling coming up through the leaf litter.
|poison ivy leaves|
The palmate lobed leaves of the Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) tree are just starting to show themselves on the lower branches. This is a pioneer plant, growing quickly and taking over a disturbed area. It is well established on our property, once farmland with acres of open fields.
Looking up the monoecious flowers are already blooming amid the more mature star shaped leaves that receive more sunshine. Ruby-throated hummingbirds will visit these blooms for nectar.
|Sweetgum flowers and star shaped leaves|
A typical stream bank species, Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) trees are long lived and rival the tulip poplar for height; however, the Sycamore has a much thicker trunk.
|Female flower (red bud)on Sycamore|
|Sycamore leaves with flowers|
|Newly emerged Sycamore leaves with male & female flowers|
Trees are naturally gorgeous. They are inviting, protecting and endearing. Their leaves get most attention in fall when they bring vibrant color to the landscape but I think they are just as spectacular in spring when they are newly emerged. I encourage you to get out and do a leaf walk and see what new discoveries you find.