Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Tangerine - Citrus reticulata

The Tangerine - Citrus reticulata is also referred to as the Satsuma or Mandarin Orange.  It is a small evergreen tree that grows in a single erect form with single short trunks or low branched multi-trunks.  It has a dense crown and for the most part the branches remain spineless, though on some varieties they do bare large thorns.  They are classified in to Citrus genus,  and the Rutaceae family.

Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

The leaves occur in an alternate unifoliate, lanceolate or elliptic fashion.  The margins are blunt with rounded teeth and a lustrous dark green upper surface.   The flowers are white, developing in the Spring with 5 petals that are produced in terminal clusters.  The Tangerines is native to China and has been highly cultivated in Florida but has not yet naturalized.  Many varieties and hybrid are currently cultivated and marketed in the United States.  Most of the tangerines sold in your local grocery store or farmers market are hybrid varieties and have been better developed over time for greater performance and crop production.

The citrus fruit is a vertically compressed hesperidium that is 5 - 10 cm in diameter, orange in color and a very close relative or member of the Mandarin family. They are much smaller in size then the common Orange and have a sweeter flavor.  The rind is generally thin and loose, removing easily to reveal 8-15 easily separated sections.  The fruit matures in late Fall to early Winter.  The fruit is most commonly peeled and eaten right from your hand.  It is also used as a garnish in salads, main courses, and desserts.  The juice of the Tangerines is sold in both the raw form and concentrated in the United States.  The rind can be used as a zest, flavoring or garnish either fresh or dried.  Tangerines are a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene and folate. They also contain small amounts of magnesium, Vitamin B (B1, B2 & B3), Lutein, Potassium and Zeaxanthin.  

Image Citation: Chazz Hesselein, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Bugwood.org

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Monday, November 14, 2016

The Edible Fig - Ficus carica

The Edible Fig - Ficus carica, is a deciduous large shrub or tree that reaches heights of 10-32 feet tall.  It grows in and erect upright fashion with multiple trunks and a spreading crown.  Introduced originally from Asia it has been naturalized from Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.  This is the only Fig growing in the United States with lobed or palmate leaves.

Image Citation: Lesley Ingram, Bugwood.org

The leaves are alternate, simply shaped, ovate or circular, with 3-5 broad lobes, flattened base and bluntly pointed and toothed tip.  The upper leaf surface is dark or medium green in color, the lower is paler in color, both are rough to the touch.  The fruit is a hairy pear shaped, leathery Fig that is green, yellow, reddish brown in color and 3-8 cm long and matures in the Fall each year.  The bark is gray-brown in color, smooth or slightly textured.  

Image Citation: David Karp, Bugwood.org

Fig plants are considered to be easily propagated through many different methods.  The edible fig is one of the first plants that was cultivated by humans with fossil evidence being found as far back as 9400-9200 BC, predating wheat, barley and legumes.  Fig plants can be found at specialty nurseries and but not readily available at smaller local nurseries.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

The Sour Orange - Citrus x aurantium

The Sour Orange - Citrus x aurantium is a small evergreen shrub or small tree that reaches heights of only 10-30 feet tall. The Sour Orange has been naturalized in Florida, Georgia and Texas, but originated in southeastern Asia and South Sea Islands (Fiji, Samoa, and Guam). Sour Orange is grown in orchards settings only in the Orient/various other parts of the world where its special products are of commercial importance, including southern Europe and some offshore islands of North Africa, the Middle East, Madras, India, West Tropical Africa, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Paraguay.

Image Citation:  NCSC Herbarium, Citrus ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org

The leaves of the Sour Orange are simply shaped ovate or elliptic, lustrous and deep green in color. The flowers are small, white in color and usually have 4 or 5 petals. The fruit is orange in color, round in shape with a thick almost leathery rind. Inside of the fruit is several separate sections or cells, each having at least a single seed. The fruit is fragrant, however it is generally too sour to be eaten on it's own. The primary use of Sour Orange is for the production of marmalade. The fruits are largely exported to England and Scotland for making marmalade.

Image Citation: NCSC Herbarium, Citrus ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org

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Friday, October 14, 2016

The Pin Cherry - Prunus pensylvanica

The Pin Cherry - Prunus pensylvanica is one of the most easily identified of all the Cherries because of the red twigs and long tapering lanceolate leaves. It is a deciduous small tree that reaches heights of only 25-40 feet tall at maturity. Growing in an erect fashion with a single slender trunk that produces suckers from the root crown, an open rounded crown, slender spreading branches. It is native to North America from New Foundland west to British Columbia, South to Colorado in the West and South to NE Georgia in the East. This variety of Cherry is fast growing with a short life span of only 20-40 years. Pin Cherry is a member of the Rose family (Rosaceae) and is sometimes referred to as the Fire Cherry or Bird Cherry.

Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org

The leaves of the Pin Cherry are alternate, simple, thin, lanceolate, often folded upward from the mid vein, curved at the apex. The upper leaf surface is lustrous, hairless, and yellow-green in color, the lower is paler and also hairless. In the fall the leaves turn red, maroon or orange adding interest to the tree. Each leaf blade is 7-15 cm long and about 5 cm broad. The Flower is small only 1-1.25 cm in diameter with 5 white petals and 15 stamens each. Flowering occurs in late Spring to early Summer.  The bark of the Pin Cherry is a reddish-brown sometimes gray-brown in color, lustrous in texture with numerous horizontal lenticels that are well spaced.  At maturity the bark becomes fissured and begins to peel off in paper like plates.

Image Citation: Becca MacDonald, Sault College, Bugwood.org
Image Citation: Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org

The fruit of the Pin Cherry is in the form of a drupe with a hard pitted stone center. Rounded in shape, bright red in color, 6-8 mm each on a slender stalk, the fruit matures in Mid to late Summer each year. Wild Cherries are high in Vitamin C and can be used for many purposes. The pitted fruits/drupe can be used in jellies, jams, juice, tea, breakfast syrup, and desserts. Pin Cherry trees provide food for many species of animals, including Grouse, Whitetail deer, at least 25 species of non-game birds, and many species of Lepidoptera. A recipe for cough syrup can be created using the juice of pin cherries. The flesh of pin cherries can be used as a flavoring for whiskey or brandy and wilderness wine can be created from the drupes (many describe it as bitter to the taste). Pin Cherry stones (the hard center) and leaves of the tree contain cyanide, but the flesh of the drupe is edible. Pin cherry leaves are less toxic than those of most other cherry species. Livestock (primarily cattle) have been known to get sick and even die after grazing on wilted cherry leaves, because they contain hydrocyanic acid. The wilted leaves of the Pin Cherry are more toxic than fresh because the concentration of cyanide is significantly higher.

Unlike most other Cherry woods that are highly sought after for firewood and furniture making, the wood of the Pin Cherry is softer and porous making it much less desirable and of little commercial value. This weak wood could be the result of it's fast growth habit. The fast growth habit of the Pin Cherry is beneficial in controlling soil erosion and minimizes loss of soil nutrients. It is not commonly planted in residential landscapes because of it's short life span.


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Friday, August 26, 2016

The Persimmon Tree-Diospyros virginiana

The Persimmon Tree-Diospyros virginiana is a small to medium sized deciduous tree. The female flowers are white and sweetly scented growing in almost a bell shape singly at the base of the leaves. Males flowers look similar, however they grow in cluster of 2 or 3 on separate trees. The persimmon grows many habitats, roadsides, old fields, and forest clearings.


Image Citation: Brian Lockhart, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The fruit is round orange to purple brown, stalkless, soft and juicy when ripe. When not ripe the fruit is extremely astringent, and horrible to the taste. Introduced species of persimmons with larger fruit are also commonly cultivated. The Texas Persimmon has black fruit that stains the hands and mouth when handled.

Image Citation: R.G. Steadman, Bugwood.org

Persimmon fruit is renowned for it's health benefits. The fruits are very high in vitamins B & C. They boost your immune system. improve iron absorption, and have twice the dietary fiber of Apples.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

The Loquat - Eriobotrya japonica

The Loquat - Eriobotrya japonica is most easily recognized by the combination of large coarsely toothed, heavily veined, dark green leaves and large flowering panicles with yellow or orange fruit. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that reaches heights of 9-20 feet high on average. The crown is dense, rounded and somewhat vase shaped. The Eriobotrya is a small genus of only 30 species of evergreen shrubs or trees that are native to mostly Asia.

Image Citation: Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The bark is brownish gray, smooth and somewhat hairy. The leaves are alternate, simply toothed, stiff, leathery, obovate or elliptical, with coarsely toothed margins and parallel veins. The upper leaf surface is lustrous, dark green, hairless, with a paler lower surface. The flowers are 10-15 mm in diameter with 5 petals in an oval or circular form. The flowers are a creamy white color with a sweet fragrance, borne in conspicuous branches and hairy terminal panicles. The flowers appear is late Autumn to early Winter. The fruit is a yellow, orange or whitish pome, that is pear shaped or oblong with 1-2 large seeds. The fruit matures in Spring to early Summer.

Image Citation: Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The Loquat was originally introduced from East Asia and is now found on disturbed sites from South Florida to South Louisiana, and cultivated into the southern portion of North Carolina. The Loquat is considered to be somewhat invasive in some portions of Florida.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Common Apple - Malus pumila (Also called Malus Domestica)

Common Apple - Malus pumila (also called Malus Domestica) - Trees are small deciduous trees in the Rosaceae family with a single erect trunk and low hanging branches that often reach the ground. Sometimes also called Paradise Apple, this is the Apple of commerce. Numerous cultivars have been selected from this genus for taste, size, shape and color. Fruits of wild plants are often of lesser quality then those that are tended to in orchards. Other varieties of Apples and Crab Apples have smaller fruit and thorny twigs.

Image Citation: Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Bugwood.org

The fragrant flowers are white with a hint of pink or sometimes all pink. Flower have 5 petals and appear with the new leaves in mid - late Spring. The leaves are alternate, simply shaped, oval or elliptic with a bluntly pointed tip. The upper leaf surface is a deep green hairy when young, becoming hairless with age. The fruit is round or slightly ellipsoid pome, green when young becoming red with maturity. The fruit matures in Summer to Early Fall annually.

Image Citation: H.J. Larsen, Bugwood.org

Growing commonly in forest clearings, near streams in the Eastern United States (but not very far to the North or Gulf Coast region). Ornamental varieties are grown throughout the majority of the United States. It is believed that the Common Apple was originally introduced from Asia or Europe but has naturalized in many areas within it's hardiness zones.

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