Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
Sycamore leaves are alternate, simple in complexity and have teeth and shallow lobes. The petioles are enlarged at the base. Their bark is solid brown at the base but peels off into smooth white bark towards the top of the tree. This Sycamore sits next to the Olentangy River in a Riparian Habitat. Sycamores are common in riparian areas because they like to have a lot of water on their roots. Additionally, their seeds can float, allowing them to be dispersed long distances by rivers and streams. Their wood is very hard, and usually only used by humans for furniture.
Sycamore trees are awe inspiring due to their size (can be up to 100 ft tall and have a 20 foot girth), unusual bark, and tendency to grow next to rivers. Next time you are near a stream, look for a Sycamore!
Check out these record setting massive Sycamore trees!
Mulberry (Morus rubra)
Mulberry leaves are alternate, simple, and highly variable. Some leaves may lack lobes, others may have 2-3 lobes. They are smaller trees, rarely reaching more than 50 ft tall and 20 inches wide. These trees commonly occur in riparian areas but also occur elsewhere. This tree was found at Tuttle Park in a wooded edge habitat.
Mulberry trees produce a great number of dark blue or purple berries. These berries are edible (and delicious) for humans. They also play an important role in food sources for wildlife. Many birds and mammals rely on mulberries as a food source, and disperse the seeds of the trees in the process. Mulberry wood is also good for smoking meat, as it provides a mild and sweet flavor. I would highly recommend making jam or jelly from the berries!
For more information on using Mulberry wood to smoke meat, check this website out!
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
Hackberry leaves are alternate, toothed and simple. The leaves are are distinguishable from other elms because they are asymmetrical. One of the most prominent features of a Hackberry is the bumpy bark. They also produce dark colored berries that are important food sources for wildlife. Hackberry trees are medium sized, and prefer rich and moist soil. However, they will grow almost anywhere. This tree was found at Tuttle Park in a wooded edge habitat.
Hackberry wood is not desirable because it rots easily and is soft. It is occasionally used to make cheap furniture. The most common use for it is for planting in urban settings due to its high tolerance. The berries are also edible, and are very high in fat content. Native Americans ate Hackberries by themselves and also used them to flavor meat.
If you’re interested in how Native Americans used Hackberry, you can look at this website!
American Elm (Ulmus americana)
American Elm leaves are alternate with prominent veins. The size of the leaves may vary widely. The bark is soft, and feels like a cork when you push on it. Elms are large, reaching over 100 ft tall and over 4 ft wide. They have been hit hard by dutch elm disease, a disease in which beetles spread a fungus to the tree. Elms prefer lowland habitat or floodplains. This elm was found at Tuttle Park out in the open (it was probably planted).
Like the Hackberry, American Elms used to commonly be planted in Urban areas due to their high tolerance for city living. This caused less genetic diversity which is why American Elms are prone to disease. American Elm wood is very hard and was used for making hubcaps on wagon wheels.
If you’d like to learn more about American Elm diseases, please check out this website!
Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
Cottonwood trees are one of the largest North American hardwood trees, growing up to 200 feet tall. Their bark is dark gray with deep ridges. The leaves are alternate, deltoid and have a flattened petiole that makes them quiver in the breeze. Cottonwoods prefer swamps or riparian areas, but will grow almost anywhere. They generally prefer full sunlight. Cottonwood gets their name from the seeds, which are like tiny cotton balls that disperse via wind power. This Cottonwood was observed at Tuttle Park at the base of a hill next to an apartment complex. Historically, it was probably a floodplain when the tree started growing.
Fun fact: Cottonwood trees can grow up to 6 ft per year and suck up 200 gallons of water per day! For more fun facts, visit this website!
Ginkgo (Ginkgo Biloba)
Ginkgo leaves are whorled (3-5 leaves per whorl), fan shaped, and have notches or lobes. In the fall, the leaves turn from a vivid green to a vivid yellow color. Ginkgo trees can be large, reaching up to 150 ft tall. Most Ginkgo trees prefer well drained, rich soils. This Ginkgo was found on a hillside at Tuttle Park. This makes sense because the hill would be well drained with rich soil.
Ginkgo trees are the sole living member of the Ginkgophyta division. All other trees of this division are extinct, and fossils of Ginkgo trees date back to 270 million years old! For more on these living fossils, please visit this website.
Ailanthus (Ailanthus altissima) “Tree of Heaven”
Ailanthus leaves are alternate and pinnately compound. Ailanthus trees will grow in all habitat types and reach up to 50 ft tall. Their buds have a pungent bad odor to them. Ailanthus trees are native to China, and are considered an aggressive invasive and noxious weed. These trees can use suckers to clone themselves almost indefinitely. This tree is growing in the front yard of my house, on Patterson Ave. The soil quality is poor, which makes sense as to why this tree is growing here.
Ailanthus trees are used for making cabinets in China, while their use in the US is limited to firewood and little else. Ailanthus trees are rather undesirable. They are called “chouchun” in China, meaning foul smelling tree. Others call them ghetto palm, stink tree, and tree of hell. For more fun facts or in-depth look at Ailanthus, check out this website.
Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera)
Osage Orange leaves are simple, alternate, with a glossy look to them. There are also small spines on the branches. Osage orange trees usually grow in groves in riparian areas, reaching a max height of 50 ft. One distinct feature is the “oranges” it grows. While they are not oranges at all (they are in the Mulberry family), they have a range of names such as “monkey brains,” “hedge apples,” and “horse apples.” The fruits are not commonly foraged by animals or humans, and secrete a latex if damaged. This Osage Orange tree was found at Tuttle Park. It was growing in a fence row, which is a staple for Osage Orange trees (hence the nickname “hedge apples”).
Some people say that Osage Oranges repel insects, others say it’s a myth. If you are interested in trying an Osage Orange or learning more about this fruit, check out this video.