Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mystery flower is identified

Regular readers of this blog may remember a post I did last week about yellow violets. I had originally gone out looking for a tree with little tiny white flowers that my husband had told me about. I couldn't find the tree, however, and I kept going further and further until I stopped and looked down and saw a yellow violet.
Oh, excuse me for a moment. If you've arrived on this blog for the first time, this is about as thrilling as it gets, okay? I warned you in the masthead of this blog to not get too excited. So if you're looking for excitement, you still have some searching to do. But if you're looking for some quiet and some nature, with a little bit of inter-species love and slutty broodmares thrown in, well you have arrived, my friend.
Anyway, back to the weird flower tree.
I went back the next day and found the tree and took some pictures, bringing a little branch home to help me identify it. And just this morning, we think we've identified this tree. Unfortunately, we can't find my husband's dendrology book from college, which is a really good source of information. So we're going with The Audubon Society's Field Guide to North American Trees. Not so good, mainly because it's a field guide, but by jove, I think we've got it.
The Latin name, Acer rubrum is also known as Red Maple, Swamp Maple, Soft Maple or Scarlet Maple. The tree we found is growing on the edge of the field, near a swampy area. I love how the little seed pods hang and if you look closely, you'll see the white that my husband was thinking of when he mentioned a little white flower. You can also see why I just passed this tree by. I was looking for white flowers and didn't see any.
I learned so many things from Wikepedia, too. The Red Maple is used for the production of maple syrup, although a harder maple is preferred. Red Maples are considered soft woods in the lumber industry. The wood is close grained and as such it is similar to that of other maples, but its texture is softer, less dense, and has a poorer figure and machining qualities. High grades of wood from the red maple can be substituted for hard maple, particularly when it comes to making furniture.
One thing we did find out which was a little alarming was that the leaves of the red maple, especially when dried or wilted, are toxic to horses.
Well, that's my little lesson for today. I just think the seed pods are an interesting subject.
It's a damp day here in Maryland, as we had some rain last night. The fields are lush green against the dark wood of the fencelines and trees and it's absolutely beautiful. Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone.
Update: See April 28 post for correct identification on this tree. It's actually a Striped Maple.

8 comments:

TSannie said...

When I was a kid we used to take one of those, hold it in our mouths and "whistle" with it. I probably couldn't do that today if you PAID me! We also called them whirlygigs - in the fall they float down to earth, spinning in circles. Beautiful photos.

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

We have those here in our yard.

Josie said...

At first the pictures reminded me very much of Laburnum which grow on the boulevards here in Vancouver. One year my daughter ate the "pea pods" from the laburnum, which are highly toxic, and she ended up in the Emergency Ward of the hospital. Children think the pods are peas and they eat them.

But on second glance, the seeds on your photos do look like Maple seed pods.

kacey said...

Ah, we had a red maple sapling that didn't make it through the winter. SuperGuy didn't care. He said they're just too soft of wood. You know men and well, soft wood. Did I say that outloud?? You should delete this comment. I mean, a family blog and all. Well, except for those slutty brood mares...

Country Girl said...

Oh, Josie, that's terrible that your daughter ate those Laburnum seeds! I've never seen them, but that's pretty scary.

And Kacey, I hadn't even thought of wood in that light while I was writing this post. Leave it to you to find the dirt in it. (And thanks for pointing it out, it's pretty funny!)

Christine said...

Incredible macros!! Beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I was reading along about how boring the site is, trees, yellow violets, la dee dah, peacefully reading reading and then skidded to a stop and backed up a word or two.

Did I actually see the word 'dendrology'?

Be still my heart....!

Oh, Kate, prepare for my inner geek to surge forward in helpful delight! Trees were my very first passion (before boys, and then the land)and while my knowledge is spotty in parts, I love opportunities to improve it.

I'll give you the breathless play-by-play:

I'm looking at the photo, thinking, no....not a red maple, hmm, I looked these up several sugar seasons ago and talked with my naturalist friend Kirk about them. Ran to the shelf, searched wildly for one of the tree books, all the while humming 'dendrology' to myself and thinking 'oh, Kate, you tease, going on and on about how unexciting your blog is'; thinking about the trees in a park I love, and how these very trees turn lovely yellow in the fall, how you can get a little sugar from them but not much, wondering if you look at the young branches if you see longitudinal white and green sort of stripes;

and there was the page. What I think you have is Striped Maple, Acer Pensylvanicum. Look how the three tips of the leaves are almost the same length. And the flowers, pendulous, drooping, dare I get to say it: a raceme.

Deep breath: I have helped resolve a mystery, and I got to use a word I never do. Raceme isn't as good a word as frolic or whatever your favorite equivalent is, but golly. I feel fufilled.

happy day, thank you, and the baby ducks are SO FREAKING CUTE!
Katie

countrymouse said...

When they dry throw pull those two apart and throw them in the air, we used to call them huppacups(because helicopter is a darn hard word for a kid) they spin the whole way down.