Updated: Jan 9
How do we know our friends? We recognize them by their height, their general shape, their dress, and whether they are slim or muscular. So, too, can we identify the trees and shrubs along the Greenway. Tall slender trees with willowy limbs are known immediately as a willow. Large limbed and opposite twigged is ash, and straight sturdy-looking trunk with few lower branches is probably Tulip-tree. Of the conifers, needles in bunches of 5 is White Pine without a doubt. Tiny cones on the tips of the branches will be American Hemlock. If green leaves still on in winter and leaves have thorny tips, its holly. Dried leaves of golden tan, retained in winter, are American Beech with a bark of smooth grey; Scarlet Oak, if leaves have a touch or red or purple; and if a small twiggy tree with dried brown leaves might be hornbeam, a very common tree, but little noted, on the Greenway. The Sweetgum holds it star-shaped yellowish leaves long into winter. Look, too, for the corky wings along the stems. Pealing bark near the top of a river-bank tree, with white under bark will be the Sycamore. Long stemmed seed balls will confirm it. On thin, twiggy small trees or shrubs the presence of small brown upright cones at twig tips will be a birch or alder. Ash and Ailanthus have hanging clusters of winged seeds. Red berries might be hawthorn, bush honeysuckle, dogwood or holly. Sumac has upright clusters of tiny red seed heads at the ends of the branches. Dark clusters of berries could be elder, viburnum or Hercules Club. The last named will also have circular rows of thorns near the leaf scars, the reason for its alternate name of Devil's Walking Stick. Prickly seed pods form on hickory, buckeye, chestnut, sweetgum and the thorn apple shrub. Long slender, flat pods hang on to black and honey locusts and tiny flat pods will be found on the ground below the Mimosa tree. The Catalpa tree has long round pods and very large leaf scars on fat branches. Hard round nuts will be walnut or hickory families; if upright clusters of black pods we know it as Paulownia. These split pods will still be on the tree during flowering time next year. A vine with black rootlets holding on to the tree will be poison ivy; its fruit a tiny round white berry. Caution, they, too have the offending oils. Acorns, of course, tell us it is oak. There are two major families of oaks; the red group all have bristle tipped leaves and the white group have rounded lobes or entire leaves without tips. Acorns of the red group mature in two years, as opposed to the white group maturing each year. Search the ground for these clues. Finding a thin shelled one inch diameter Oak Apple Gall on the ground will alert us to the presence of a White Oak. We hope you will find some old and new friends as you travel the walkways of the Little Tennessee River Greenway.