Post Oaks in the Big City

Post oak
This post oak thrives despite being squeezed between a parking lot and a sidewalk. November 2013. Takoma Park, MD.

If you live in one of Maryland’s older towns, you probably have a lot of heritage trees – native trees inherited from the forests and fields that existed before your town was built out. It’s part of what gives old towns so much character. In my home town, Takoma Park, one of the heritage trees I admire the most is the post oak (Quercus stellata).

Post oaks inspire me. I see beauty in their shiny, cruciform leaves and their tiny, striped acorns. I also admire the species’ capacity to cope with adversity.  Many of the post oaks in Takoma Park are confined to little hell strips, those narrow grassy areas between slabs of asphalt or concrete. There they must cope with soil compaction, deicing salts, copious quantities of dog urine, and the urban heat island, to name a few.

Post oaks are one of the most common trees at Soldier’s Delight Natural Area, where the serpentinite bedrock gives rise to a soil so laden with heavy metals that it’s too toxic for most plants to grow in. Perhaps tolerance of metals helps the post oak perform well at urban sites,  even sites near train tracks and in industrial parks. Continue reading

What Tree is This?

Five trees
Can you identify these trees? The answers are at the end of this post.

How well do you know your trees? Can you identify the trees in the images above? Do you know where to start and what to look for?

When we get tree identification questions at the Home & Garden Information Center, we look not only at the leaves or needles but also the leaf arrangement along the branches, the size and shape of the tree, the bark, buds, and fruits too.

If you want to get better at tree identification, like most anything, it helps to have a good foundation and to practice. If you are interested in getting better at tree identification, you may be interested in the upcoming events we are sponsoring.

Continue reading