Published On: Mon, Nov 3rd, 2014

Dogwood, Blackgum Have Arrived

The trees are here! These are the trees we got from the RiverSmart Homes Program.

Now I can’t wait until the spring when some new buds appear. I’m hoping the Dogwood blooms some of its white flowers and the Blackgum has the fiery red leaves I see in photos.

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At some point the tags on the new trees we got from the RiverSmart Homes Program may disappear, maybe get swallowed up by the tree itself like the fence in the backyard, so I took photos of them. They have the trees’ real names.

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Also known as Black Tupelo
Nyssa sylvatica, commonly known as black tupelo, tupelo, or black gum, is a medium-sized deciduous tree native to eastern North America from New England and southern Ontario south to central Florida and eastern Texas, as well as Mexico.

Nyssa sylvatica‘s genus name (Nyssa) refers to a Greek water nymph; the species epithet sylvatica refers to its woodland habitat.

The species’ common name tupelo is of Native American origin, coming from the Creek words ito ‘tree’ and opilwa ‘swamp’; it was in use by the mid-18th century.

While these trees are often known as simply “tupelo”, the fuller name black tupelo helps distinguish it from the other species of the tupelo genus (Nyssa), some of which have overlapping ranges, such as water tupelo (N. aquatica) and swamp tupelo (N. biflora). The name “tupelo” is used primarily in the American South; northward and in Appalachia, the tree is more commonly called the black gum or the sour gum, although no part of the plant is particularly gummy. Both of these names contrast it with a different tree species with a broadly overlapping range, the sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), which does produce an aromatic resin. Another common name used occasionally in the Northeast is pepperidge.

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Cornus florida (flowering dogwood) is a species of flowering plant in the family Cornaceae native to eastern North America, from southern Maine west to southern Ontario, Illinois, and eastern Kansas, and south to northern Florida and eastern Texas, with a disjunct population in Nuevo León and Veracruz in eastern Mexico. In Ontario, this tree species has been assessed and is now listed as endangered.

Flowering dogwood is a small deciduous tree growing to 10 m (33 ft) high, often wider than it is tall when mature, with a trunk diameter of up to 30 cm (1 ft). A 10-year-old tree will stand about 5 m (16 ft) tall. The leaves are opposite, simple, ovate, 6–13 cm (2.4–5.1 in) long and 4–6 cm (1.6–2.4 in) broad, with an apparently entire margin (actually very finely toothed, under a lens); they turn a rich red-brown in fall.

The flowers are individually small and inconspicuous, with four greenish-yellow bracts 4 mm (0.16 in) long. Around 20 flowers are produced in a dense, rounded, umbel-shaped inflorescence, or flower-head, 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) in diameter. The flower-head is surrounded by four conspicuous large white, pink or red “petals” (actually bracts), each bract 3 cm (1.2 in) long and 2.5 cm (0.98 in) broad, rounded, and often with a distinct notch at the apex. The flowers are bisexual.

When in the wild they can typically be found at the forest edge and popular on dry ridges. While most of the wild trees have white bracts, some selected cultivars of this tree also have pink bracts, some even almost a true red. They typically flower in early April in the southern part of their range, to late April or early May in northern and high altitude areas. The similar Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa), native to Asia, flowers about a month later.

The fruit is a cluster of two to ten drupes, each 10–15 mm (0.39–0.59 in) long and about 8 mm (0.31 in) wide, which ripen in the late summer and the early fall to a bright red, or occasionally yellow with a rosy blush. They are an important food source for dozens of species of birds, which then distribute the seeds.

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About the Author

David Gaines

- David Gaines is a Washington, DC, resident transplanted from North Carolina whose dream career was a newspaper writer but settled for the recruiting industry and simply blogging about whatever thoughts crosses his mind.



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