Giant Mystery Tree…Part II

That’s Eva, used for scale. She’s four years old.

And now for a closer look at this amazing tree (For Part I of this story: LINK):

Preliminary size statistics

  • Average canopy spread (drip-line): 41 feet
  • Approximate height (improvised clinometer): 26 feet
  • Minimum trunk circumference: 77 inches

Leaves. Thankfully, a few leaves remain on the tree. The leaves are simple, as opposed to compound(like walnut or sumac), they are finely toothed, and the larger of the leaf blades above are 2 1/4 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide. Notice also that the leaf blade tapers to the petiole (the tiny stalk that attaches the blade to the stem) and from there continues down the sides of the petiole in narrow strips. So, the petiole is slightly winged.

Branches and stems. Looking up at the limbs of the tree, notice that stems and leaf buds are arranged in an “opposite” pattern. This simply means that two leaves or stems are attached at the same location, but opposite one another and on either side of the stem. Also interesting is the regular angle at which the stems branch out.

Flower buds. Flower and leaf buds are noticeable at the ends of the stems. I looked inside of one bud; the swollen buds contain tiny immature clusters of next year’s white flowers. Notice the conspicuous appearance of the bud as it extends to a point. The leaf buds are more slender, as they don’t contain florets. The stems and buds are hairless, and upon cutting the stem a hexagonal pith is revealed.

Fruit. The fruit is nearly black, 1/4″ -1/2″ long, and hangs in drupes. Only a few drupes remain on the tree, but fruit and seeds are easily found amid the grass under the tree. The flesh of the fruit is dark colored and quite sweet. A flat ovate seed is found in the center.
Leaf Scars. Notice the narrow leaf scars on the stem. Last year’s leaves have fallen, revealing three bundle scars in each leaf scar. Each tiny little bundle scar represents a “cross-section of vascular bundles that ran from the branch into the petiole when the leaf was attached” (Oregon St. Herbarium).

Bark. The bark of the tree is grayish brown and broken into small vertically oriented rectangles. The image below is nearly two feet across.

Tentative conclusions: This is probably some sort of Viburnum species. Any objections?
**This is Part two in a series of articles describing this tree.
Here are links to the other articles:


10 thoughts on “Giant Mystery Tree…Part II

  1. Anonymous says:

    Devin, before I got to your statement, I thought about Viburnum, too. But, it’s so BIG! Do you have “A Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of the Southern Appalachians” by Robert Swanson? I was trying to key it out using your photographs, but got stuck on the details of the leaves. However, just guessing for those characteristics, I arrived at V. prunifolium. But, but, it says shrub or small tree and your tree looks pretty large.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don't have that book…but need it!
    That's what I key it to also. I'm dumbfounded. I suppose there's a chance this is Black Haw (Vib. p.), and this was my first guess when we found it….if so it would be a new national record (the current one is nearly this size, and I think it's up in Maryland.)
    What details are you missing in the leaves? The leaves have fallen from the tree, but I've pressed some samples.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Here is the part of the key I got stuck on:

    3. leaves coarsely toothed, all or most lateral veins ending in a tooth.

    4. petioles and lower surface of leaves hairy….V. dentatum

    4. petioles glabrous; lower surface of leaves glabrous or hairy only on veins or in vein leaf axils……..V. dentatum var. lucidum

    3. leaves finely toothed to entire, the lateral veins merging into a fine pattern of veinlets before reaching leaf margin

    5. Margin of leaves distinctly and regularly toothed, the teeth pointing forward (toward leaf tip)

    6. leaves rather thick, their upper surface glossy; petioles rusty-wooly and with a broad, wavy margin ……………….V. rufidulum

    6. leaves thin, their upper surface dull green; petioles not rusty-wooly and without broad, wavy margin…………….V. prunifolium

    5’ margin of leaves bluntly or irregularly toothed to entire; teeth, if present, pointing outward


    It goes on from there, but I think this is the section in which this tree is found.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Finely toothed for certain, dull green upper surface, petioles not wooly, and leaves quite thin. This key is pointing to the same thing as other keys. -DSF

  5. Anonymous says:

    It's not much bigger than the current national record.
    We'll see. When we first saw it and realized it had opposite leaves I got a sudden rush, butterflies. Then the berries came into view. I still feel it may be some horticultural variety (has Black Haw been treated in this manner historically?). But it could also be a relic of a forest that was in this spot a couple hundred years ago…benefiting from the open field and light, and growing accordingly. A few of the other islands of trees in this field are certainly approaching a couple hundred years old.
    Who knows!?


  6. Anonymous says:

    It is entirely possible that this is a horticultural variety of Viburnum. Many references to using the black haw fruit for making preserves float about the internet, so this could have been a popular historic use….especially if ornamental and densely fruiting horticultural varieties were made available. However, black haw has a limited native range. Are there any European cousins that our native could be mistaken for?


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