Monday, September 28, 2009


Cercidiphyllum japonicum is one of the two species in the single-genus family Cercidiphyllaceae. Both species are native to Japan and China.

This katsura has a rounded shape, but habits can vary from conical to wide-spreading.

A katsura typically has a multi-stemmed trunk and surface roots.

The bark is grayish-brown and split into thin strips.

The leaves are cordate at the base and either can form a true heart shape with a pointed tip or can be more rounded at the bottom, like these ones.

As they fall off and start to decay in autumn, the leaves emit (so I'm told) a burnt sugar or caramel scent. I'm still waiting to be blasted by it one day when I walk by.

A few leaves are turning yellow already. Fall color can vary from yellow to bronzy pink to red to a mottled mix of the three. When new leaves first come out in spring, they are purplish.

Older branches have these woody nodes from which emerge leaves and buds.

They should give the tree an interesting winter look.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

baby graves

Despite the large number of baby graves in the cemetery, I never seem to get jaded - they always make me stop for a minute or two. Some tell the age of their lost baby,
some let you figure it out,
and some tell exactly how many days their little one lived.
Still, some only give a name.
Some only give the sex.
And some give no more than this.
This story particularly struck me (it's fitting that the tombstone is shaped like an open book):
Carl died at five months, Therese died at four months, and three months after baby Therese's death, the father/husband Emil died as well at the young age of 25.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Weeping Willow

I spotted this weeping willow from outside the cemetery at 20th St. and 7th Ave. so when I got inside, I went to take a closer look.

I was familiar with these tresses...

of long tapering leaves.

What surprised me was how far these pendulous branches hung down,

...or rather, from how high up they came.

I think this is Salix babylonica, but it could be one of a few other willows that also weep.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sweet Birch

Betula lenta belongs to a group of birches that have rough bark and sweet sap. It has several common names, including black birch and cherry birch.

The leaves are oval-shaped and finely toothed. The twigs, dotted with lenticels, have a minty taste. Before oil of wintergreen was produced synthetically, sweet birches were a prime source. Sweet birch sap was also used to make birch beer.

The female catkins are erect and are about an inch long.

When the sweet birch is young, the bark is shiny with long, horizontal lenticels; it resembles that of a cherry tree. Mature trees like this one have rough, plate-like bark.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Silk Tree

I made a post about this silk tree when it was in bloom. Now, instead of flowers, the tree is covered with seed pods like this one, which was about about six inches long.

The pods are flat with little bulges where the seeds are. They will turn brown and stay on the tree through winter.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Shagbark Hickory

Carya ovata gets its common name from this flaking bark. It curls away from the trunk at the ends, but stays attached to the tree in the middle, giving the trunk a shaggy look.

The leaves are pinnately compound with 5 or 7 leaflets on each leaf. Here's a closeup of a leaflet.

The nuts are tasty - at least, the squirrel who was gnawing away at the middle fruit thought so (click on the photo to see). When the fruit is ripe, it separates along the four grooves, leaving lots of husk pieces around the tree like the one on the right.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pere Lachaise and Hungry Trees

These photos were sent from France. They were taken at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Napoleon established the cemetery in 1804, and at the time, it was also in the suburbs. In fact, it was considered to be too far away from the city, so in an effort to get business rolling, cemetery administrators organized transfers of LaFontaine's and Moliere's remains to Pere Lachaise. Later, in 1817, remains of Abelard and Heloise were transferred to the cemetery (the authenticity of the remains has been disputed). These publicity stunts did the trick. In a few years, the number of permanent residents increased from under 100 to about 33,000. Today there are over 300,000 permanent residents.

Here's a monument...

and, of course, a tree! This one has grown into the fence. Although I haven't seen that yet in Green-Wood, I did stumble across this:
(looks like a sycamore) and a few other stone-eating trees.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Spring in September

Chartreuse really catches your eye this time of year. While most other leaves are on the verge of changing to red, yellow, orange, the horse chestnuts, after having dropped all of their mature leaves due to anthracnose, are pushing out brand new ones.

Out of these sticky buds...

come both leaves and flowers.

I'm not sure these will get pollinated. Even if they do, the fruit will probably not make it to maturity as winter is around the corner.

Nearby, a mature fruit from the first wave was sitting on top of a monument.

Monday, September 7, 2009

PeeGee Hydrangea

The PeeGee hydrangea can be pruned into tree form.

Its species name, Hydrangea paniculata, refers to the pointed flower clusters, or panicles.

Unlike Hydrangea macrophylla, the PeeGee flower color does not vary with soil pH.

PeeGees bloom in mid-summer. The flowers start out white, and as they age, turn pink and then rusty brown.

A friend of mine says of the PeeGee: "These old fashioned hydrangea remind me of over-powdered old ladies of the south."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Honey Locust

Gleditsia triacanthos is one of 15,000 species in the pea family (Leguminosae). This family, also called the legume family, is characterized by pod-like fruits. Honey locust seed pods can be up to 18 inches long. The tree's common name refers not to the sap, but to the sweet pulp of the seed pod, which Native Americans used in food, drink, and medicine.

The leaves are pinnately or bipinnately compound.

The bark is vertically fissured...

and has clusters of branched spines, so it's not the best climbing tree. Early settlers used these thorns as sewing needles and nails.

In spring, the honey locust is covered with strongly scented white flowers.

Some light can come through the canopy, so there's more grass around the trunk than you find with trees that create unadulterated shade, such as beeches.