Category Archives: Native Trees

Balsam Poplar Catkin (not a cocoon) on Balsam Fir

Balsam Poplar Catkin (not a cocoon) on Balsam Fir Tree

If you see these strange structures on a Balsam Fir tree, it may at first look like an insect cocoon or egg case, but the structure in the photo is of a Balsam Poplar catkin  (Populus balsamifera) that has fallen onto a Balsam Fir tree.   The part that looks like a fuzzy caterpillar is the catkin/flower of the Balsam Poplar tree and the Reddish-brown structure, that looks like a smaller version of a moth cocoon, is the bud scale.  These structures are adapted for wind dispersal and often land on trees together, making them look sometimes like they are physically connected to the tree.   The attachment is aided by a sticky substance the buds are covered with that smells like balsam — perhaps the source of the name.

These pictures were taken on Memorial Day weekend in Spruce-Fir Northern Hardwood Forest in Northeast Vermont.

 

unknown species on fir

unknown species on fir 2 unknown species on fir 3

How to Tell a Balsam Fir from a Red Spruce Tree

Seven Ways to Tell a Balsam Fir from a Red Spruce Tree

New England and Atlantic Canada forests are full of balsam fir and spruce trees; the red spruce is the most wide spread.  Here are few simple ways to tell the difference:
Balsam Fir vs Red Spruce

1. Fir needles are soft (like fur)

2. Spruce needles are Sharp

3. Fir needles have two white lines on the underside (so do Canada Hemlock, but their needles and cones are much smaller)

4. Fir needles are Flat

Note the two white stripes on the underside of the needles.
Note the two white stripes on the underside of the needles.

5. You can roll a spruce needle between your fingers because it is square in cross section (the flat fir needles won’t roll)

6. Balsam Fir trees are aromatic and smell like a Christmas tree

7. The cones of Balsam Fir trees are much larger and usually fall apart when they fall to the ground.

Oak Trees of Eastern North America, New England, and the Canadian Maritimes/Atlantic Canada

Oak Trees of Eastern North America, New England, and

the Canadian Maritimes/Atlantic Canada

New England and Atlantic Canada is home to various beautiful oak tree species.  With a little effort, one can learn to identify the difference among these by the leaf shapes.

Continue reading Oak Trees of Eastern North America, New England, and the Canadian Maritimes/Atlantic Canada

Native and Non-Native Stewartia Trees that Fare Well in New England Gardens

Stewartia Trees that Fare Well in New England Gardens

Native and Non-Native Stewartia Trees Suitable for New England

Many may be familiar with the stately looking sycamore trees with eye-catching exfoliating bark.  Just take a slow drive down Memorial Drive at Harvard University and you will be convinced of the timeless elegance of this (exfoliating bark) characteristic.

However, there is group of native and non-native Stewartia trees that turn heads even quicker, and these are now readily available for your home garden (but not at box stores yet).  Be warned, Stewartia trees are not for the gardener who strives for instant glory.  These trees, unlike the aformentioned Sycamore, are very slow growing.  They also carry a larger price tag.  I would recommend purchasing something bigger than a twig if you want something impressive in your lifetime;  a 1o’ specimen goes for around $200. Continue reading Native and Non-Native Stewartia Trees that Fare Well in New England Gardens