A stunning winter color tree, the Paperbark Maple was first cultivated in China in 1901. Its striking reddish bark is smooth and wafer thin and peels away to an orangish bark beneath. Its leaves in fall also turn deep red and orange. It is a small, deciduous tree, averaging 30' tall. It flowers in small yellow clusters in the spring and has trifoliate leaves, unlike typical maple leaves. The fruit hangs in double wings. Several cultivars are available, some as shrubs.
Paperbark Maples host about 300 insect species, mostly caterpillars. The most frequent bird species that are attracted to Paperbark Maples are woodpeckers, tanagers and warblers. Grosbeaks and cardinals sometimes feed on the double winged samaras.
Native from Vermont to Oklahoma, the Pin Oak is one of the best oaks to grow in wet conditions, although it is also very adaptable to changes in ground moisture. It is a fast-growing, medium to large tree, topping out at about 100 feet. It has a shallow root system with no tap root, which prevents it from getting waterlogged in very wet areas, and makes it easily transplantable. Its ovoid shape comes from the earliest or lowest branches swooping downward while the top branches reach upwards. The Pin Oak is so named for the many short, spurs (pins) that appear on new growth. It has deeply lobed 3-5" leaves, male flowers on spring catkins, is pollinated by wind, and has small (1/2") acorns in the fall. Its adaptability has made it the most popular choice of oaks for street and residential plantings.
The Pin Oak's plentiful branches make it ideal for nesting birds. It also hosts over 530 types of caterpillars, creating a feast for insectivorous birds like warblers and tanagers. Other birds attracted to Pin Oaks are American robins, woodpeckers, Baltimore orioles, barn owls, blue jays, brown thrashers, crows, downy woodpeckers, northern flickers, northern parula, rose-breasted grosbeaks, tufted titmice, vireos, white-breasted nuthatches and even wood ducks and wild turkeys.
To identify, look for straight, single-stemmed trunk, relatively smooth gray bark, deeply lobed leaves, and small spurs on new growth.
Thought to be extinct, a small grove of Dawn Redwoods was discovered in 1941 in China. Since then, they have been cultivated and planted as an ornamental tree world-wide, although still considered endangered. The Dawn Redwood can grow to 200’ feet, although 100 feet is more likely. It has a symmetrical, conical crown and in many ways resembles a Bald Cypress. Dawn Redwoods are also known as “False Cypresses.”
This medium- to large-sized tree is one of the fastest growing trees available. It is a deciduous conifer with bright green feathery leaves that turn brick red before dropping in the fall. It is an easily transplanted tree. Its 3/4"-1” cones hang on long stalks and drop in the spring. The young bark is red and flaky on a markedly tapering trunk, but becomes deeply fluted as it ages.
The Dawn Redwood is thought to symbolize wellness, safety, longevity and wisdom.
The London Plane tree originated in Europe and is a hybrid of the American Sycamore and Oriental Plane tree from Asia Minor. It is a large tree, often growing to 70 feet, with an open, spreading canopy. It has a distinctive smooth bark with patches of grays, greens and browns that flake off. Its maple-like leaves are large (5-10”) and glossy green in the spring. The London Plane tree has tiny flowers in dropping clusters with both males and females on separate twigs on the same tree. The flowers mature into pendulous, ball-shaped clusters of seeds that purple finches, goldfinches and squirrels love.
This hybrid was especially successful in the coal smoke and grime of London, and as a result was widely planted throughout moderate climates world-wide.
5. Flowering Crabapple Malus Sargenti
Flowering Crabapples are small trees (30’) with a big display of spring flowers. There are over 500 cultivars of crabapple with blooms ranging from deep pink to white flowers. Some are wild native crabapples and have single blossoms, but most cultivars are native to Asia and have double blossoms. Crabapples are the small fruits which mature in late summer. Some are edible and can be made into jellies and preserves. Mostly they are a tremendous source of food for birds, squirrels, rabbits and small mammals (especially ground feeders) and crabapple thickets are great protection for nests and shelter to many species.
6. Native - Butternut Juglans cinerea
Sometimes called ‘White Walnut,’ this deciduous, medium-sized, slow-growing tree can reach 60 feet and is found on stream banks or well-drained moist soils. It is known for its large, sweet, sticky, oily nut and springtime flowering catkins. Butternuts are edible but quickly turn rancid, so harvesting must be done early. They contain a rich oil and their husks can be used to create a yellow-brown dye. The nuts support many species of native wildlife.
Butternut wood is light-weight and rot resistant.
Similar to those of the black walnut, the butternut leaves are pinnate but have up to 17 leaflets. The Butternut is distinguished from black walnut trees by larger leaves and clusters of nuts.
The tree trunk generally forks and grows into a ‘bouquet’ shape. The leaves are usually one of the first to turn color in the fall.
The population of Butternuts are rapidly declining due to a lethal fungus Butternut canker first reported in North America in 1967. Since then, its population has been reduced by nearly 80%. Due to the high rate of infection and mortality, further declines are likely.
Butternuts in the area are growing next to Walnuts which look very similar. You can see the difference with Walnuts as their limbs are blockier and darker than Butternuts. Also a note - there is a room in Château-sur-Mer (Newport Preservation Socieity mansion on Bellevue Ave., Newport) made entirely of Butternut wood.
7. Katsura Cercidiohyllum japonicum
The Katsura tree in native to Japan and China and is known for its redolent brilliant fall foliage and heart-shaped leaves. In the fall, decomposing Katsura leaves give off a strong, sweet, burning sugar smell that can be detected at a distance. It is deciduous with a dense pyramidal shape.
This small- to medium-sized tree (50’) has a straight trunk but is sometimes multi-stemmed. Its ovoid-shaped crown is dense, with upright branches. New leaves are reddish purple and the bark curls and peels into thin strips. The Katsura blooms in the spring, producing unusual tiny, tuft-like flowers without petals. In the fall, it produces a podlike follicle in clusters of 2 or 4, each containing several winged seeds.
For a short period of time in the fall, crushed Katsura leaves smell like cotton-candy.