Trees of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada

Trees of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada

by William M. Harlow


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This is an extensively revised edition of the standard semipopular Trees of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada. It covers all the important native trees found in this area. A concise introduction provides all that you need to know for general identification of trees. Then, an eight-page, easy-to-use synoptic key enables you to locate at a glance the group or genus of any tree you are likely to encounter. Supplementary keys in the main text help you easily locate the various species.
More than 140 different trees are described in detail, with information on general appearance, habit of growth, leaf forms, flowers, fruit, twig appearance, bark, and other features. Additional information includes habitat, distribution by states, commercial use, and even woodlore.
Treatment throughout this fascinating book is semipopular; it is neither a slight sketch, nor a monograph for the specialist. It is a middle-range book, carefully written for the intelligent reader who is sincerely interested in accurate information about trees. With it you will be able to identify at sight almost any tree, not only by group but also by species. You will be able to tell a sugar maple from a Norway maple, a black oak from a white oak, a horse-chestnut from a chestnut. You will know which trees have edible fruit, which are suitable for house plantings, what climate and drainage conditions trees need, and a multitude of facts about each of more than 250 trees.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486203959
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 06/01/1957
Series: Dover Books On Plants
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 933,865
Product dimensions: 4.50(w) x 6.37(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

Trees of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada

By William M. Harlow

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1957 William M. Harlow
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-13826-8





Leaves (needles) are persistent for two or more seasons; in bundles of two to five, when first borne in the spring each bundle enclosed at the base in a somewhat scaly sheath. Since the bundle is circular in cross section, the shape of each needle is determined by the number of needles in a bundle (see pages 36 and 41).

Flowers appear as small cones, male and female on the same tree; the former are often so abundant that at shedding time if one shakes a branch, he becomes enveloped in a yellow mist of countless billions of pollen grains and near-by ponds and lakes are streaked with them. Since pines have "on" and "off" years for flowering, several seasons may pass before such abundance is observed on any particular tree.

Fruit is a pendent or spreading woody cone which requires two growing seasons to mature. Small at the end of the first season and upright at the branch tip, it slowly turns downward the second spring, grows rapidly, and attains full size by the end of the summer. The presence of small cones means that a. seed crop may be expected the next year; their absence shows that there will be no mature cones at that time. If one is gathering seed, this way of predicting a year ahead is very useful.

Remarks.—The pines are among our most important forest trees, producing- as they do not only wood of the finest quality but also (certain species) naval stores (turpentine and rosin). They are most common and often form extensive forests on sandy soils, with a minimum of moisture. On heavier soils they occur mixed with the broadleaved trees.

Pine wood makes good kindling, and especially the resinous pine knots obtained from old stumps or rotting logs will ensure a fire on a rainy day. These knots can also be used as torches and will burn for a considerable time. The quick hot fire produced by pine wood leaves only ashes rather than live coals and blackens the cooking utensils with soot and tar. Like other conifers or softwoods, hot sparks may shoot out from the burning sticks, a feature not desirable in a tepee or near other tents.

Pine seeds are eaten by squirrels and several species of birds, and the young branches are browsed by deer. In winter, rabbits often attack young trees in plantations and sometimes trim them completely of needles or even nibble off the branches as well.


1. Needles, in 5s, on second-year growth lacking a sheath at the base of the bundle White pine (p. 35)

1. Needles, in 2s or 3s; sheath present on all bundles 2

2. Needles, in 2s 3

2. Needles, in 3s 5

3. Needles about 5" long, snapping cleanly when bent double Red pine (see also shortleaf pine) (p. 40)

3. Needles, mostly less than 3" long 4

4. Needles, sharp-pointed, mostly blue-green; bark, bright range Scots pine (p. 51)

4. Needles, sharp or dull, yellow-green; bark, grayish or dull Table Mountain pine (p. 50), (cones with a large spike on each scale; Pa. southward), Jack pine (p. 44) (minute prickle), Scrub pine (p. 49) (sharp prickle), (ranges of last 2 do not overlap)

5. Needles, stiff and twisted, often in tufts along the trunk; cones persistent for many years Pitch pine (p. 42)

5. Needles, flexible and straight (many also in 2s on the same tree) Shortleaf pine (p. 47)

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus L.)

Appearance.—A tall forest tree (largest of eastern conifers), from 80 to 100 ft. in height and 2 to 3 ½ ft. in diameter (max. 220 by nearly 6 ft.). Each year's growth is marked by a new false whorl of side branches. Especially in dense woods, old trees have straight clear trunks bearing crowns of graceful plumelike branches.

Needles.—In 5s (the only five-needled pine in the east), 3 to 5 in. long, flexible, dark blue-green; bundle sheath falling off after the first season.

Flowers.—Male and female occur separately as small cones on the same tree.

Cones require two seasons to mature, at the end of the first season about % in. long, upright. They become pendent at the beginning of the second season and grow to a mature length of 4 to 8 in.; prominently stalked; scales, thin, unarmed, each bearing two terminally winged seeds.

Bark.—At first dark green, smooth, and thin; later breaks up into wide plates; on old trees, deeply furrowed into blocky, rectangular ridges.

Habitat.—Although making best growth on sandy loam soils, this tree is found on a wide variety of sites. Originally, it was found in pure stands as well as in mixture with other species.

Distribution.—The Lake states, southern Canada, the northeast, and along the Appalachians to ncrthern Georgia.

Remarks.—Since colonial times, white pine has been the most important conifer of the northeast and Lake states. Occurring in large quantities and possessing a soft, durable, easily worked wood, it was the favorite timber for construction of all sorts.

Natural reproduction is good. Also millions of trees have been planted for reforestation purposes. When strips of land are left along the edges of plantations, fruit-bearing shrubs seed in and make an attractive place for wild life. White pine, especially in pure stands, is often greatly damaged by the pine weevil whose larvae riddle and destroy the terminal leader. One or more of the side branches then endeavor to take the place of the dead leader, and in this way a crooked stem results. White pine blister rust also causes damage and often death, particularly in young trees. This is a fungous disease brought over from Europe and now firmly established here. One stage is found on the leaves of gooseberry and currant bushes, and from them spores can infect pine trees to a distance of about 1,000 ft. The stage found on the pine produces a bark canker that eventually kills enough bark to cause the death of the tree. From pustules on the canker, spores may travel many miles to reinfect currant or gooseberry leaves. These spores cannot injure white pine; therefore by eliminating gooseberry and currant bushes from white pine areas the disease can be controlled.

According to Josselyn, an early English writer, "the distilled water of the green cones taketh away wrinkles in the face, being laid on with cloths." Can it be that our modern beauty experts have overlooked something?

In the colonies, after 1691, a fine was imposed for cutting white pine for mast timbers on any but private land. Such mast timber was reserved for the crown, and sometime later (1719) it became the practice (Maine) for the king's surveyors to mark these trees with an "R" (royal) or a broad arrow.

In Pennsylvania, especially from 1840 to 1860, special rafts of great mast timbers, each 90 ft. long and often 40 in. in diameter, were floated down the Susquehanna River through rapids where the water in some places drops 400 ft. in a mile. Since the mast spars must have no holes in them, they were bound together with hickory withes, instead of being pinned as were squared timbers. Such spar rafts were steered with mighty sweeps (oars) fore and aft and skippered by men who knew every whirlpool and cross current for 200 miles of river. The spars in these rafts would weave back and forth in rough water so that the raft at a distance looked like a piece of fabric hurtling through the rapids, and it took a man with "educated feet" to stay aboard. Stopping such a juggernaut for the night is a whole story in itself.

When land was cleared, the old stumps and attached roots were set up on edge with roots interlaced, and these fences stood for many years.

White pine inner bark in May and June is good to chew, and New Englanders used to candy strips of it.

Red Pine Norway Pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.)

Appearance.—A tall forest tree, from 50 to 80 ft. in height and 2 to 3 ft. in diameter (max. 120 by 5 ft.). The crown is somewhat open, oval in outline and is supported by a long, well-formed cylindrical bole which is usually clear of branches. Each year's growth is marked by a new false whorl of branches, a feature also found in white pine; in the other two northeastern hard pines, from one to three whorls may be produced each year.

Needles.—In 2s (rarely also in 3s on shoots infested with the larvae of the pine tip moth), 4 to 6 in. long, flexible, dark yellow-green, straight, snapping cleanly when bent double between thumb and fingers; bundle sheath persistent.

Flowers.—Male and female are borne separately as small cones on the same tree.

Cones require two seasons to mature. During the first season they are small and upright. The second season, they become pendent and, when mature, are ovoid and measure from 1 ½ to 2 ¼ in. in length. Scales, thin and unarmed, each bearing two terminally winged seeds.

Bark.—On young trees flaky and orange-red; eventually breaks up into flat plates scaly on the surface.

Habitat.—Found mostly on light, sandy loam soil of a poorer quality than is necessary for white pine. Distribution.—The Lake states, southern Canada, and the northeast as far south as northern Pennsylvania (also an isolated patch in northeastern West Virginia).

Remarks.—How this native North American tree happened to have the name Norway applied to it seems to be somewhat of a mystery. Some say that the early voyageurs on the Great Lakes mistook it for Norway spruce, a European tree. Others claim that this species was so named because of large stands near the village of Norway, Me. At Hancock, N. H., is Norway Pond. The author was much interested to find a number of large "Norway pines" on its shores. In any event, the name Norway pine has been used so long that the decision of the U.S. Forest Service to use the more logical name red pine met with considerable criticism. This tree is now widely planted on reforested areas and is a valuable timber species. According to Gibson, the heartwood (similar to that of white pine but harder) was used for ships' decks, and the trunks for masts.

Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida Mill.)

Appearance.—Quite variable as between different parts of its range. Probably reaches best development in Pennsylvania where it is often a forest tree 50 to 60 ft. high and 1 to 2 ft. in diameter (max. 100 by 3 ft.). Through New England pitch pine is more often a small scraggly tree. Unlike red pine, more than one whorl of side branches may be produced each year.

Needles.—In 3s, 3 to 5 in. long, yellow-green, rather stiff; often twisted; bundle sheath, persistent.

Flowers.—Male and female occur separately as small cones on the same tree.

Cones require two seasons to mature (for details of growth see description of red pine), 2 to 3½ in. long, somewhat ovoid, usually persistent on the tree for many years after maturity (a good feature for identifying the tree at a distance); each scale armed with a sharp prickle and bearing two terminally winged seeds.

Bark.—At first dark and scaly or ragged; later breaks up into brownish-yellow plates separated by narrow fissures. The trunk often bears tufts of needles on short "water sprouts," a very characteristic feature.

Habitat.—Found most typically on poor, dry, sandy soils too sterile for most other trees except scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia) and gray birch, which are its most common associates.

Distribution.—From Maine (few areas in southern New Brunswick) and the islands in the upper St. Lawrence River, south to northern Georgia and Virginia.

Remarks.—The cones open at irregular intervals, some during the winter, and the seeds are cast upon the snow, thus providing food for birds and small mammals such as the red squirrel, for which it is said to be the preferred food. Young trees when cut down or damaged by fire often produce sprouts, a feature that is rare among conifers and especially pines. Before the Revolution and the opening of the southern pineries, tar and turpentine were made from pitch pine.

According to Emerson the wood is durable even when subjected to alternate wetting and drying; for this reason, it was used in making water wheels for the gristmills so common in colonial times. The wood makes a hot fire (but sooty, of course) on account of the resins in it, and was used widely in firing steam engines.

Pitch pine will grow near the coast where occasional high tides even cover the roots.

Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.)

Appearance.—Usually occurs as a small to medium-sized tree of ragged outline, but at its best 70 to 80 ft. high and 12 to 15 in. in diameter (max. 90 by 2 ft.). Like pitch pine, this species produces two or three false whorls of side branches each year.

Needles.—In 2s, ¾ to 1½ in. long, yellow-green, divergent, stout, often twisted; bundle sheath, persistent.

Flowers.—Male and female occur separately as small cones on the same three.

Cones require two seasons to mature (for details of growth see description of red pine), 1½ to 2 in. long, oblong-conical, usually pointing forward, and often curved toward the twig, persistent for many years; each scale armed with a very small prickle and bearing two terminally winged seeds.

Bark.—Scaly, dark gray to reddish brown.

Habitat.—The poorest of dry sandy soils, in this respect resembling pitch pine. On better sites this species occurs mixed with red pine or is replaced by it.

Distribution.—Mostly a Canadian species extending from Quebec and Ontario northwest to central Mackenzie; in the United States, found in Maine, northern New Hampshire, northern Vermont, northeastern New York, and the Lake states.

Remarks.—Like the western lodgepole pine which it resembles, this species holds its cones, many of them unopened, for a number of years. Often, these unopened cones become buried in the wood as the tree grows and disappear from sight. Seeds from such cones have been found fertile after extraction. A light fire serves to open the persistent closed cones and results in pure stands of Jack pine in many localities. Some of the early settlers thought that this pine was a witch tree and that it was dangerous to get nearer than 10 ft. from it. They also thought that it poisoned the soil—perhaps because it grew naturally on poor sites.

Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata Mill.)

Appearance.—A forest tree, at its best from 80 to 100 ft. high and 2 to 3 ft. in diameter (max. 130 by 4 ft.). The clear, well-formed bole supports a more or less pyramidal crown of small branches. More than one whorl of laterals is produced each year.

Needles.—Commonly in 2s (also 3s on the same tree), 3 to 5 in. long, flexible, dark yellow-green; bundle sheath, persistent.

Flowers.—Male and female occur separately as small cones on the same tree.

Cones require two seasons to mature (for details of growth see description of red pine), 1½ to 2½ in. long, oblong to narrowly ovoid, each scale armed with a small but sharp prickle and bearing two terminally winged seeds.

Bark.—At first nearly black, roughly scaly with small surface pockets or holes, later reddish brown and broken into irregular flat plates.

Habitat.—For the most part found on dry upland soils, in pure stands or mixed with hardwoods, especially some of the oaks.

Distribution.—Staten Island (New York) through New Jersey and Pennsylvania to southern Ohio, south to eastern Texas and south central Georgia (sparse or lacking along the coastal plain and in the immediate vicinity of the lower Mississippi River).

Remarks.—This species is one of the four important "southern yellow pines," and much commercial timber is harvested from it. Shortleaf pine like pitch pine is capable of sprouting when young. The taproot is usually curved, and this brings a short section near the surface of the ground. If the tree is injured by fire or otherwise, extra buds on this portion of the root often send up new shoots.

Virginia Pine Scrub Pine (Pinus virginiana Mill.)

Appearance.—Usually a small tree 30 to 40 ft. in height and 12 to 15 in. in diameter (max. 100 by 3 ft.). The outline is more or less ragged and in general is similar to that of Jack pine. Like several of the other yellow pines, two or three whorls of lateral branches may be produced each growing season.

Needles.—In 2s, 1½ to 3 in. long, rather rigid, grayish green, often twisted and divergent; bundle sheath, persistent.

Flowers.—Male and female occur separately as small cones on the same tree.

Cones require two seasons to mature (for details of growth see description of red pine), 1½ to 2½ in. long, oblong-conical; each scale armed with a sharp prickle and bearing two terminally winged seeds.

Bark.—At first thin and smooth, later broken into reddish-brown, scaly plates.


Excerpted from Trees of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada by William M. Harlow. Copyright © 1957 William M. Harlow. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Principal Kinds of Trees
Leaf Shapes
Leaf Margins
Leaf Surfaces
The Pines
The Larches
The Spruces
Balsam Fir
"The "Cedars"
The Willow Family
The Willows
The Poplars
The Walnut Family
The Walnuts
The Hickories
The Birch Family
The Birches
The Alders
American Hornbeam
The Beech Family
The Oaks
The Elm Family
The Elms
The Mulberry Family
The Mulberries
The Magnolia Family
The Magnolias
Tulip Tree
The Custard-apple Family
The Laurel Family
The Witchhazel Family
The Plane Tree Family
The Rose Family
The Cherries
Peach and Plum
The Apples and Pear
The Mountain-ashes
The Shadbushes
The Bean or Pea Family
Black Locust
The Rue Family
The Quassia Family
The Cashew Family
The Sumacs and Poison-Ivy
The Holly Family
The Maple Family
The Maples
The Buckeye Family
The Buckeyes
The Buckthorn Family
The Basswod Family
The Ginseng Family
Devil's Walking Stick
The Tupelo Family
Black Tupelo
The Dogwood Family
The Dogwoods
The Heather Family
The Ebony Family
The Olive Family
The Ashes
The Trumpet Creeper Family
The Catalpas
The Honeysuckle Family
The Viburnums

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