The Wonderful World of Trees

This red mulberry specimen was found next to a shallow stream in Glen Echo park. While it may be difficult to distinguish red and white mulberry trees at first, closer examination reveals the red mulberry has many defining characteristics. The red mulberry leaf is simple, alternate, and finely serrated. The older a tree gets the less lobes the leaves have, so it is safe to say this specimen is relatively young. The leaves feel kind of like sand paper on top and the underside is covered with what feels like little hairs. White mulberry leaves are smooth and shiny and don’t have hairs on the underside. A noteworthy characteristic of the young bark is that it has an orange tint.

While they may be famous for their delicious berries, the tree has other uses. According to the Woodworking Network, red mulberry wood was used to make barrels and boats because it is naturally decay resistant. Link -> https://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/wood/wood-explorer/red-mulberry-morus-rubra

Albizia julibrissin “Persian silk tree”

I was very surprised to find this Persian silk tree, also commonly known here as a mimosa, because Columbus is just about the furthest north it grows. I found this particular specimen growing in a sandy/gravelly patch next to a creek in Glen Echo park. Originally native to Persia (duh) and further east in Asia, it is now an invasive species in the U.S. after being planted as an ornamental. The leaves are opposite and bipinnately compound. Look at those adorable leaflets!

While they are an invasive species, according to Owlcation their flowers attract all sorts of critters like bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. Link -> https://owlcation.com/stem/Interesting-Facts-About-the-Persian-Silk-Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera “Tulip poplar”

I LOOOOOOOVE this tree, it is definitely in my top 10. I found this specimen in Glen Echo sorta by itself right on the edge of a thicker patch of woods, with plenty of empty space around it to help uplift its majesty. The tulip poplar has alternate and simple leaves with just a fantastic four-lobed shape. They turn a vibrant yellow in fall, which is quite a sight to see!

According to the University of Kentucky’s horticulture page, large tulip poplars were a favorite of Native Americans for canoe building. Link -> https://www.uky.edu/hort/Tulip-Poplar

Betula nigra “River birch”

Since Glen Echo is a ravine, there are plenty of streams running through it to create wetland conditions that the river birch needs to survive. I found this particular specimen not too far away from the largest stream running through the center of the park. The simple, alternate leaves have an interesting serration pattern and veins that remind me of parking lots.

As the name suggests, the tree is great for controlling river erosion, but according to the Arbor Day Foundation they were once used for wooden shoes and ox yokes! Link -> https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeGuide/TreeDetail.cfm?ItemID=792

Fagus grandifolia “American beech”

Ain’t this one handsome son of a beech? I found this specimen on top of a slope that lead down towards a stream in Glen Echo park. The dark green leaves are alternate and simple with teeth that terminate each vein. They have pretty distinct terminal buds, if the elephant-skin bark doesn’t give it away for you immediately.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, early European settlers viewed them as a sign of fertile soil. Also, beechnuts are a key food source for all sorts of mammals! Link -> https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeGuide/TreeDetail.cfm?ItemID=789

Quercus bicolor “Swamp white oak”

I’m not sure why, but this is my favorite tree in Ohio. Not this particular tree that I found in Ohio Weslayan’s Kraus Nature Preserve near a small pond, but the species in general. It has that “favorite tree” vibe and I always get excited when I find one. Anyway, the leaves are alternate and simple, with smooth but lobed edges.  The underside of the leaves have a paleish appearance to them, I think my tree ID class told me the word for that is “glaucous.” The branch structure is a standout characteristic to me, and the sight of the sun shining through the leaves and branches is always magnificent.

According to the USDA NRCS Plant Guide, the acorns are edible and actually pretty tasty when prepared correctly, and their galls are used for making dyes. Link -> https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_qubi.pdf#:~:text=As%20in%20white%20oak%2C%20the%20wood%20provides%20tight,large%20lawns%2C%20golf%20courses%2C%20parks%2C%20and%20naturalized%20areas.

Ailanthus altissima “Tree of heaven”

The images may not be great but this one was too interesting for me to pass up, especially because of how HUGE it is. I found this specimen in Glen Echo park at the top of a large path leading down into the ravine. Originally from China, the tree of heaven is a serious invasive plant and noxious weed. Most frequently you’ll see them as patches of angry shrubs, but when they mature they get very tall. The leaves are alternate and pinnately compound, and it is hard to see but they have a signature lobed base. The leaves are also notable for smelling like you let a dog drool into a jar of peanutbutter.

According to Natural Medicinal Herbs, the bark of the tree was used in China to treat all sorts of ailments like diarrhea, epilepsy and cancer. Huh. Link -> http://naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/a/ailanthus-altissima=tree-of-heaven.php

Catalpa speciosa “Northern catalpa”

Originally only native to the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, the northern catalpa has spread all over the country. I found this specimen in Glen Echo park at the bottom of a steep slope. Their leaves are a dead giveaway, as they’re just about the largest tree leaves you can see in the wild. The leaves are also notable for being the only whorled tree leaves in Ohio. They are simple with no serration and very prominent veins.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the tree was used for fence posts and railway ties because the wood was resistant to rot. I like to use the leaves as hats. Link -> https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide/treedetail.cfm?itemID=805