Cherrybark Oak

Cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda) is a large and valued Red Oak found in the southern United States. They commonly attain heights well over 100 feet and can have trunk diameters of up to five feet. I have an awesome specimen of this tree in my backyard in SE Louisiana — because of it, my backyard is perpetually shaded in summer.

Cherrybark oak in November (left) and February (right). It gradually sheds leaves from late November through January and already in February next year’s leaves are budding. Also appearing in late February and early March are the flowers of the oak, called catkins — they are small but evident in the picture from February shown above.

Here is a closer view of the flowers (catkins) of the Cherrybark Oak, fallen and draped over a camellia bush. In early March catkins drop from the oak, creating quite a mess and filling the air with oak pollen.

Cherrybark oak’s name reflects that its bark is similar to that of the black cherry tree. Its bark, along with a fallen leaf is shown above in the photo to the left (December). A new leaf in spring (March) is shown in the photo on the right. The scientific name of the tree is Quercus pagoda. The term “pagoda” was used because the shape of the leaf somewhat resembles the roof of a pagoda.

Cherokee Rose

White blooms of the Cherokee Rose (Rosa laevigata) are a common sight along southeastern Louisiana roadways in early March. A native of southeast Asia, in the United States it is an invasive species. It has thrived in the southern US since its introduction here long ago (~1780), and was adopted as the state flower of Georgia in 1916.

Cherokee Rose climbs aggressively over other vegetation forming dense mounds of thorny canes. So, even though its springtime bloom is impressive, it is not always welcome in the landscape.

The name Cherokee Rose comes from its association with the Trail of Tears, the route taken by Cherokees and other native tribes when they were forcibly relocated to the west from the southeastern US.

Southern Trees; Southern Live Oaks with Spanish Moss

Oaks are common both in Minnesota and Louisiana. Like pines, oak species are different in the north vs. the south. Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana ) is a distinctive and beautiful oak species found along the Southeastern Atlantic Coast from Virginia to Florida, and along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas. Live Oaks retain their leaves nearly all year, which is why they are named “Live”. They are not true evergreens because they shed their leaves in the spring just prior to emergence of next year’s leaves.

Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is draped across the branches of the oaks in the pictures below. It actually is not moss, but rather a flowering plant in the Bromeliad family. While Spanish Moss uses trees like Live Oak and Bald Cypress for physical support, it is not parasitic. Plants like this that have no roots but absorb nutrients and water from humidity and rain are known as epiphytes.

The pictures above show a majestic Live Oak along the shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville LA. The largest Live Oak registered by the Live Oak Society is only a few miles from this oak. It is known as the Seven Sisters Oak, and has a trunk nearly 40 feet in diameter.

The pictures above show the “oak alley” located in Fontainebleau State Park, a few miles east of Mandeville LA. These oaks were planted around 1850 when the site was a plantation and sugar mill owned by Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville.

Southern Trees; Pines

Pine trees are prevalent in the Southeastern USA, but the species are completely different from those native to Minnesota. The Southern Pines native to St Tammany Parish, Louisiana are Loblolly, Longleaf, Shortleaf, Slash, and Spruce Pine. However, locally I’ve only identified Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda).

Loblolly Pine is the most common tree in Louisiana, by far. According to a survey by the Southern Research Station of the US Forest Service, Loblolly Pines in Louisiana numbered about 2 billion in 2005, twice as many as the second place tree, the Sweetgum. The only other pine in the top 20 Louisiana trees was the Slash Pine, which Loblolly outnumbered by about 6X.

Loblolly Pine is the most important commercial tree in the Southern US, planted extensively for lumber and pulpwood. It grows fast, about two feet per year, in a wide range of environments.

Loblolly, like most of the Southern Pines has three needles growing from each fascicle. Pine trees in Minnesota have either 2 needles/fascicle (Red, Jack) or 5 needles/fascicle (Eastern White). The cone of the Loblolly Pine has distinctive protruding barbs. The bark of the Loblolly is rather thin in comparison to other pines, such as Longleaf. A consequence is that Loblolly is less able to withstand fire than other pine trees.

Loblolly is a word of Southern origin that refers to a swampy area, or a mudhole. Its name reflects that Loblolly Pine thrives best in wetter settings.