An Amazing Tree – Part II

I’ve had a closer look at this mysterious tree. Not being able to quickly label this tree resulted in something wonderful…an awareness of the details that make it unique. As with most learning experiences, I find it to be very very helpful to explore qualities and concepts prior to visiting the label (even though this was not the intent in this case). Not “knowing” lets the subject linger a bit, and just might result in a better understanding and lasting memory. It has been my experience that all people, young and old, benefit from this approach.
The “Amazing tree’s” green foliage has continued to persist…right through the lingering snow and extended cold spell. Despite its atypical persistence, the resilient oak has finally begun to show signs of the changed seasons, as the leaves are getting more and more pale. The most pronounced change has been a profound loss of moisture in its leaves. They are getting more and more crisp, but continue to cling to the tree…much like other Oaks (some of which hold their dried brown leaves right through the winter).

  • Notice the pronounced tufts of hair on the back side of the leaf. These tufts are significantly different from tufts I examined on other Oaks(for comparison purposes)…this included Pin, Scarlet, Southern red, and Northern red oaks.

Looking closer: Since the last “Amazing Tree” posting, I have visited this oak on three different occasions with the intent of getting a closer look. In this process of inquiry, and in an attempt to ID the tree, I have run into mostly dead ends in books and in identification keys. Despite my inability to label the thing, I engaged the tree fully, using all my senses. Before sharing the various routes I took to figure out what type of tree this is, I’d like to share with you some of the details I discovered in looking closer…some of the qualities that make it unique.

  • The leaf buds are small, smooth and sharp pointed, and have a grayish brown color.

  • One thing was clear from the start. This tree is an oak. Only oak trees have acorns!

The acorns I measured were all less than an inch long and they frequently hung in pairs. Notice the vertical striations and the thin layer of fuzz on the acorn.

  • You’ll also notice the very pronounced bristles at the tips of the pointed lobes on the leaves:
This tree is in the Red Oak group (in which there are about seventeen eastern native varieties +/-…according to the many field guides out there). The White Oaks have mostly rounded lobes. There are exceptions to these rules of course, as is the case with everything in this forever changing world.
  • Notice the shallow bowl-shaped acorn cap. In the 20 samples I gathered, the cap typically covered less than 1/3 of the acorn.

With these attributes, one can fairly confidently Id this tree. Any guesses? Here’s a clue. It is very uncommon in this area, and has an historic range that is predominantly southern. However, this native oak’s range is expanding, a phenomenon apparently being pushed along by planting.Link to “An Amazing Tree – Part I”An Amazing Tree – Part III

2 thoughts on “An Amazing Tree – Part II

  1. Tree hugging says:

    From the USDA Plants here are Oaks (native and non-native) that are reported to occur in Albemarle and Charlottesville. Maybe there's one in this list that your book doesn't have? (But as you suggest it's probably of horticultural origin):

    Quercus alba VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus alba var. subcaerulea
    Quercus alba var. subflavea
    Quercus bicolor VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus coccinea VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus coccinea var. coccinea VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus ×richteri
    Quercus falcata VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus falcata var. triloba
    Quercus triloba
    Quercus ilicifolia VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus imbricaria VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus marilandica VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus marilandica var. marilandica VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus nigra var. marilandica
    Quercus muehlenbergii VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus acuminata
    Quercus alexanderi
    Quercus prinoides
    Quercus prinoides var. acuminata
    Quercus palustris VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus phellos VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus prinus VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus montana
    Quercus rubra VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus stellata VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus stellata var. attenuata
    Quercus stellata var. parviloba
    Quercus velutina VA(Albemarle)
    Quercus velutina var. missouriensis

  2. Devin S. Floyd says:

    There are a few on that list that I've seen in none of my sources!
    This really is a bit of a conundrum for those attempting to ID trees. Here are the problems:

    The list you provided also omits several native species that actually occur in this area. This is likely because of the long curve that comes with survey, research, and publication. Range maps are static estimations, and all of them are outdated the moment they go into print.
    I have access to a gazillion tree ID sources (including one referred to me by a leading botanist), and none of them align. All of our native and non-native oak species are on the move.
    So, you'll notice that the range maps in the new Sibley guide reflect an expansion (and in some cases in small geographic pockets) or retraction of the ranges shown by previous sources.
    The conclusion here is that one should be familiar with native and non-native trees that exist within and outside of one's region…because you never know when the exception to the rule might sneak in! More importantly, it's helpful to understand the process of inquiry and to have access to a variety of resources.
    Gotta run, I will elaborate on the nuances of choosing and using those sources (based upon my experience with this tree) asap. But, the Amazing tree has been ID'd and verified by an expert in the field. It is a rare one for this area, and is a native. I'd like for folks to ponder the pics for a bit, so won't divulge the answer (many are familiar with the more common red oaks around here…and this tree has somewhat of a mixture of the attributes diplayed by those). In the mean time all clues are in the photos, and this key has the answer:
    Better yet, go check the tree out!..and take care, as it's standing in an island along route 250.

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