Tag Archives: trees

Weekly Puzzler Answer #139

Did you recognize the nuts from last week’s puzzler? They are black walnuts from the black walnut tree, Juglans nigra.



Black walnut trees can grow up to 150 feet tall and are native to the eastern and central United States. The bark of a black walnut tree is blackish to dark gray with deep furrows. The leaf is a compound leaf that can be 18 inches long.

nuts33-6142An interesting fact about black walnut trees is that they produce this toxic substance called juglone in its roots and leaves that can kill other vegetation growing nearby. Thus, sometimes you might see black walnut trees growing all alone in the middle of a field. Some plants, such as morning glory, rose of Sharon, pansies, black raspberries, plums and squash,  are immune to this toxin and can still prosper there.

Here is the next puzzler! And this is your LAST CHANCE to be entered in the quarterly drawing as I have decided I want to give away my holiday DVD to the winner and want to send this out before the 25th, thus, not waiting until the 21st to pull the winner. If you want to be entered in the drawing, use the comment box below. All correct responses will be eligible. Good luck!

And have a fabulous weekend!!

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Weekly Puzzler #139:Tangerine-Sized Nuts

Hey all! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying the weekend. Is the weather nice where you live?

Rather than spend Black Friday in the stores shopping, my family went to the woods to enjoy a hike to a beautiful spot overlooking the mountains. Ahhh, it was so much quieter than the stores!

Check out this photo of these large nuts. Have you noticed this year’s bumper crop of NUTS? The squirrels and other animals who eat them are going to be in Heaven! So many! Have you seen any like this in piles where you’ve been hiking?



Do you know what they are? I wish it was possible to convey the smell through the internet. Have you ever picked one up and given it a whiff? Oh, I love the smell of these!

Check back next weekend to see if you are correct. And don’t forget to add your guess in the comment box below–chances to qualify for this quarter’s drawing are running out! A winner will be chosen on the first day of winter, just a few weeks away. Good luck!

See you again soon.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #136

Did you recognize this lovely tree bursting with vivid red berries from last week’s puzzler?

art3-5It is Mountain Ash or Rowan, also called Quickbeam, Rowan Tree, Rowanberry, and, Witchwood, (Sorbus aucuparia.) It is not related to our Common Ash tree.

Rowan is a shrub that grows up to 50 feet tall, at elevations usually above 6500 feet, including in North America, Northern Europe and South Western Asia. Here in western North Carolina, you can find them along the Blue Ridge Parkway–at Black Balsam Knob, Mount Rogers, Craggy Gardens and at Pisgah. They are quite stunning when you see an entire mountainside covered with them!


Those bright red berries? They are rich in Vitamins A and C and many animals eat them, including 60 species of birds as well as some mammals including fox and squirrels. In some parts of the world, the berries are collected and made into jams and jellies that go well with wild game. When raw, the berries contain parasorbic acid which turns into sorbic acid when cooked. A frost is said to make them less bitter. rowan-8594

Want to see another plant that produces bright RED berries? Here’s the next puzzler.

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Weekly Puzzler #136: Red Berries

Fall in western North Carolina has been spectacular, with lovely blue-sky days and warm temperatures. I have gotten to do a fair amount of hiking, exploring a few places along the Blue Ridge Parkway that are bursting with color–some leaves and some trees PACKED with gorgeous, bright red berries. Do you know this tree? Have you seen it on a mountainside near you? What is it?


If you know, use the comment box below to give your guess. All correct answers will be entered in the next drawing to win a free prize.

…have a fabulous weekend! See you again soon.

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10 Things You Might Not Know about Beech Trees

As I sit at my desk and watch the rain fall gently outside the window, I cannot help but notice and admire the handful of beech trees nearby–their paper-thin leaves the color of soft caramel, decorating the gray branches like ornaments on a Christmas tree. I love how they add a splash of color to the other browns and greens of this before-spring-landscape.

Beech tree leaves in winter add a nice splash of color.

Beech tree leaves in winter add a nice splash of color.

Have you ever looked closely at a beech leaf at this time of year? Almost transparent, their surface feels like that of a fine paper. They are one of Mother Nature’s many example of perfection.

Do you know much about beech trees? If you’ve been following along with my blog posts you know why they still have their leaves during winter. But what else? Let’s look at some other interesting characteristics about beech trees

1.Beech trees often grow in areas with moist soil, especially along streams or creeks. They have a shallow root system, though widely spread. Interestingly, older beech trees often will propagate themselves by spreading out sucker roots that produce clumps of small beech trees around a mature tree.

2. Beech trees can live for 300 to 400 years and can be taller than 80 feet! They could have a diameter of more than 3 feet. It isn’t until the tree is 40-60 years old before they start producing nuts.

Beech trees are often targets of graffiti which can harm the tree.

Beech trees are often targets of graffiti which can harm the tree.

3. As you may have noticed, beech trees have smooth, gray bark. The word book is thought to come from an old Germanic word for beech, boko, since ancient inscriptions were caved in beechwood tablets. Sadly, the smooth bark of the trees often makes them a favorite for lovers’ initials and other graffiti–even today despite now knowing that such habits can be detrimental to the tree. When the bark is breeched like this it removes some protection for the tree, creating an easy pathway for insects, fungi and other pathogens to enter, sometimes causing irreparable damage. The bark scars will remain for the rest of the life of the tree.

4. Many animals feed on the beech nuts including raccoon, fox, opossum, squirrels, chipmunk, deer, mice, rabbits, turkeys, bluejays, woodpeckers, ducks, bear, grouse and others.

A beech nut

A beech nut

5. There are 11 species of beech trees that can be found in North America, the northern parts of Europe and Asia.

6. You will rarely find a beech tree in an urban setting as they cannot grow in an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide.

Chickadees often choose to nest in beech trees

Chickadees often choose to nest in beech trees

7.  Beech trees are a favorite nesting tree for chickadees, who are cavity nesters–choosing holes made by woodpeckers.

8.  Also, American colonists used the beech leaves as stuffing in their mattresses and pillows.

9. Beech trees are pollinated by the wind.

10. Beech trees have male and female flowers on the same tree. (called monoecious) Male flowers are yellow, outlined in red–they hang as catkins from the branches. Female flowers are yellow and arranged in pairs.


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Weekly Puzzler #99

So since we were talking last week about beech trees, I figured I would do one more relating to them. Look at the photo below. Have you ever seen this? Know what it is or what causes it? You will sometimes find it in the forest on beech trees and it is especially noticeable in the winter when lots of leaves are missing from the trees.

Check back next week to learn the answer.



…until then, have a great weekend and week! See you again soon.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #98

beech-7343So the question of why beech trees (and others like oak) keep their leaves in winter provided an interesting subject to research, with lots of theories about this. Do you know why the beech trees keep their leaves in winter? Have you noticed this in a forest near you? Have you paid attention to the actual trees and whether ALL of the leaves stayed or just some of them? Do you have a theory about this?

By the way, Botanists, who as you may have noticed, like to give fancy names for things, call this retention of dead plant material marcescence (mahr-CESS-ent). Beech are not the only trees with this characteristic but since so many beech trees might be found in one spot, it is often the most noticeable species exhibiting this characteristic. (Marcescence is also present in many species of oaks,ironwood, musclewood and witch hazel.)

In my research, I came across many theories about marcescence in the beech trees –like that by keeping their leaves they deter deer from browsing or that shedding their leaves at the end of the winter, rather than the beginning, means the decomposing leaves will be added to the soil at a time the trees need it most. Another is that the leaves on the trees mean more snow will be held there and then, when it melts, will fall at the base of the tree, thus giving more water and nutrients to the tree.

beech-7347But interestingly, the answer that was the most definitive AND made the most sense is about sex. (Are you surprised?) That is, beech trees keep their leaves when they are sexually immature. Sexually mature in trees is defined as when they start flowering and depending on the species and growing conditions, a tree may not reach sexual maturity for a few years to a few decades. Beech trees do not reach sexual maturity until they are 40-60 years old. Imagine!

Maybe to understand this better you need to know why trees lose their leaves in the first place. As cold weather approaches, deciduous trees move all the nutrients from the leaves into their stems and form an abscission layer where the leaf meets the stem, basically “ungluing” the leaf. By doing this they reduce water loss and prepare for winter.

In some years an early frost might interrupt this process and “kill” the leaves quickly, resulting in a higher incidence of marcescence. These trees did not have time to “unglue” their leaves.

beech-2If you look around the forest and notice beech trees with their leaves still on–despite that we are well into March and some animals, like the woodchucks and birds have declared winter is nearing its end, you will see most of them are young trees. These are not sexually mature.

Of course you may also notice that even on some big trees, some branches still have their leaves. How can that be, you might ask, surely those giant trees are sexually mature by now? Well the answer interestingly is that some trees, for whatever reason, keep some branches–especially those at the crown and close to their trunks–in an immature condition. If you watch, these juvenile branches will not bear flowers come spring.

So now you know! And if anyone ever asks, or wonders aloud in your presence, you can say “It’s because of SEX–what else!”

Have a great Saturday! Check out the next puzzler HERE.

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