Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Eastern White Pine, a common coniferous tree in our area, can reach heights well over 100 ft. It is easily distinguished from our other native pines by its light green needles borne in clusters (called fascicles) of 5. These flexible needles are 3 to 5 in. long. The resinous, cylindrical cones are 4 to 8 in. long and require 2 yrs to mature. The smooth gray bark of younger trees becomes furrowed with age. Eastern White Pine is widespread in Eastern Canada and the Northeast US, extending down the Appalachians as far as northern Georgia and South Carolina, and is found throughout the upper Midwest and adjacent Canada. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was heavily logged by the British for ships' masts. The White Pine Trail above the Arboretum Visitors Center formerly ran through a stand of relatively large, mature examples of this species. Disease and wind damage, however, have eliminated many of these magnificent trees.
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Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron)
Ebony Spleenwort and Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrosticoides) are the two most common ferns found along Arboretum hiking trails. The smaller Ebony Spleenwort is less conspicuous than Christmas Fern. Its upright, fertile fronds (leaves) bearing clusters of spores (sori) can be up to
2 ft in height, but more commonly are less than 1 ft long. The sterile fronds are much shorter (only 2-6 in. long). The leaf petiole and rachis (the stalk to which the leaflets are attached) are dark purplish brown to black, which gives rise to the ebony portion of its common name. Spleenwort purportedly refers to the medicinal properties of this and other Asplenium species. The bases of the fertile frond leaflets (pinnae) are ear-shaped and overlap the rachis. The margins of the pinnae are serrate (saw-toothed) to crenate (somewhat rounded). The distribution of Ebony Spleenwort is unusual in its being found throughout the eastern US, in New Mexico, Arizona, and the West
Indies, and also in tropical and subtropical Africa.
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Elms (Ulmus spp.)
American Elm (Ulmus americana), has a special place in the history of our country. The Liberty Tree, a large American Elm growing on the Boston Commons in the 1760’s, served as a rallying point for initial protests against the Stamp Act. These protests eventually led to the Revolutionary War.
Beginning in the 1930’s, Dutch Elm Disease, caused by a fungus, greatly reduced the populations of American Elm, once the major shade tree in towns throughout the Midwest and Eastern U.S. Although native to our region few, if any, American Elms are found at the Arboretum. Three other species of elm, however, are found along Arboretum trails.
Winged Elm (Ulmus alata) is a relatively small tree growing to heights of 40-50 ft. Distinguishing characteristics include relatively small (1˝ - 3˝ inches long), narrow, coarsely toothed leaves and thin, corky ridges along many of its branches —the wings that are the basis for its common name. Winged elm is found along the lower parts of Cemetery Ridge Trail.
Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra) is a relatively small tree growing to heights of 40-50 ft. Distinguishing characteristics include relatively small (1˝ - 3˝ inches long), narrow, coarsely toothed leaves and thin, corky ridges along many of its branches —the wings that are the basis for its common name. Winged elm is found along the lower parts of Cemetery Ridge Trail.
Rock Elm (Ulmus thomasii) is present along the upper portions of Cemetery Ridge Trail and the South Forest Loop Road. Its leaves are relatively smooth in texture and 2-4 in. long. Rock Elm is also called Cork Elm because of the irregular corky wings that develop on older branches. It can grow to heights of 100 ft. Although present in East Tennessee, Rock Elm is more common in middle Tennessee. In our area, it is typically found on relatively dry, rocky sites.
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Japanese Elm (Ulmus davidiana var. japonica)
In the 20th Century Dutch Elm Disease (DED) devastated American Elms (Ulmus americana) throughout the Eastern US. To find a replacement for this common street tree, several elm species native to Asia were identified that were resistant to DED. Japanese Elm has been used extensively in breeding programs in the US, Canada, and Europe, and a number of resistant hybrids have been developed.
In 1966 a specimen of Japanese Elm was planted in the Arboretum’s Central China Collection near the end of Marsh Road. Arboretum records list this tree as a cultivar of Japanese Elm — Ulmus japonica ‘Keki.’ Current taxonomy considers Japanese Elm to be Ulmus davidiana var. japonica, and the cultivar ‘Keki’ does not appear to be a currently recognized taxon. Our specimen may well be one of the hybrids tested for resistance to DED, but then not selected for further research.
Japanese Elm makes an excellent shade tree, growing to heights of 50-80 ft. It has large, bright green leaves that are up to 4 inches long. As with a number of other elm species, the prominent leaf veins are parallel and the leaf base is asymmetrical. The wood has been used for pallets, crates, and firewood, and the tree is also used in Bonsai.
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