Sunday, November 15, 2009

Black Birch

Looking down at the ground, I noticed birch leaves,

and tasted a twig to confirm that it was a black birch (also known as sweet birch - click to see previous post on this species).

The fruiting catkins are mature; they're densely packed with papery seeds.

New female catkins will emerge in the spring out of the pointed buds. Male flower buds (in the upper left corner) are long, scaly, and rounded at the tip. In the spring, they will grow into yellow male catkins.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


The persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is native to the Southeastern United States. It's in the Ebony family and true to its family name, it has very dark (and very hard) wood. Persimmon wood has been used in golf clubs, bowling pins, and billiard cues.

The mature bark is distinctive; it's cracked into square plates.

But the most distinctive feature of the persimmon is the fruit. It looks like a small orange tomato with a large persistent calyx. The fruit is edible, but if eaten before ripe, can taste uncomfortably chalky. Usually it's ready to eat after a frost.

In "The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia" (1612), William Strachey wrote of the fruit:

     They have a plomb which they call pessemmins, like to a
     medler, in England, but of a deeper tawnie cullour; they grow on
     a most high tree. When they are not fully ripe, they are harsh
     and choakie, and furre in a man's mouth like allam, howbeit,
     being fully ripe, yt is a reasonable pleasant fruict, somewhat
     lushious. I have seene our people put them into their baked and
     sodden puddings; there be whose tast allowes them to be as
     pretious as the English apricock; I confesse it is a good kind of
     horse plomb.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

planting bulbs

Now's the time for bulb planting.

Daffodils will bloom around the Pierrepont monument in early spring. Other monuments around the cemetery are being bulbed as well, either by family request,

or because monuments with built-in beds simply demand flowers.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Fossils indicate that the Ginkgo family is over 200 million years old. Ginkgo biloba is the only species living today in the entire division Ginkgophyta.

Ginkgoes are dioecious, meaning some trees are male and some are female. This particular group of trees is the product of asexual reproduction. An older gingko was cut down and new shoots came up around the stump.

As the stump decayed, the strongest shoots survived and grew into trees, forming a ring of ginkgoes.

-looking up from the center-

-cicada shell on ginkgo bark-

The leaves are set in whorls on short, slow-growing shoots.

They're green in the summer...

and turn yellow in the fall.

If you've ever walked by a female ginkgo around this time of year, you know why most cities only allow male ginkgoes to be planted along the streets: the fruit smells pretty bad. Some say rancid butter, but I didn't even know butter could go bad, so consulting my personal odor library, I can only say that it's reminiscent of stomach acid mixed with partially digested food.

This path was covered in fallen leaves and fruit.

a treacherous route...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Kousa Dogwood

This kousa was glowing a couple days ago. I recently went back and all of the leaves had been dropped. Things are changing so quickly these days...

A mature kousa can be recognized at any time of year by the bark. It exfoliates in small round pieces,

...creating a multi-colored trunk.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Japanese Maple

The Japanese maples are having their fall moment right now. This tree had leaves of all colors from green to red.

This one near the catacombs had some nice reds and oranges.