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What are trees doing this week?

In bloom this week is the native Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), also known as wild black cherry.

Ranging from southeastern Canada through the eastern United States west to eastern Texas, with disjunct populations in central Texas and mountains of the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Guatemala, Black cherry is a 25-110 ft. deciduous tree, distinctly conical in youth. When open-grown it becomes oval-headed with spreading, pendulous limbs and arching branches. Crowded trees grow tall and slender. Southwestern varieties are often shrubby. Leaves shiny on the upper surface; blade oblong with a long pointed tip and tapering base, margins finely serrate. White flowers are held in drooping racemes after the glossy leaves have emerged. The dark red fruit changes to black from August through October. Aromatic tree; crushed foliage and bark have distinctive cherry-like odor and bitter taste, owing to the same cyanide-forming toxic compounds, such as amygdalin, found in the wood and leaves of some other woody members of the Rosaceae. Fall foliage is yellow.

This widespread species is the largest and most important native cherry. The valuable wood is used particularly for furniture, paneling, professional and scientific instruments, handles, and toys. Wild cherry syrup, a cough medicine, is obtained from the bark, and jelly and wine are prepared from the fruit. While the fruit is edible and used in beverages and cooking, the rest of the plant contains amygdalin and can be toxic if consumed. One of the first New World trees introduced into English gardens, it was recorded as early as 1629 in Europe and is now highly invasive there and in northern South America.

The local black cherry trees are in such lavish bloom this year that this may be a mast year. A mast year is when a particular tree species produces more fruit than normal. More acorns on the oak trees, more walnuts on the walnut trees and more cherries on the wild cherry trees. If you like black cherry jelly, then a mast year is a real treat, The trees sometimes produce such a bountiful crop that some of the branches become overweight and break off. Picking the ripe cherries, only about 3/8" in diameter, is much easier during a mast year, when you can strip off a whole handful at a time. If this does turn out to be the case, I'll post a recipe for black cherry freezer jelly when they're ready for picking.

The Champion Delaware Black Cherry is located at 513 West Spruce St., in Seaford and measures 209" in circumference, equal to a diameter of about 5 1/2 feet. It stands 76 feet tall. Sorry, but I don't have any pictures. I'll try to post some next week.

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Also in profuse bloom this week are the Black Locust trees, very noticeable while driving along Route 1, especially in the area between the C&D Canal and Smyrna. They're everywhere you look!

Black Locust along Rt 1

The Black Locust, (Robinia pseudoacacia,) also known as yellow locust, false acacia, post locust and common locust, is a tree 40' to 50' tall, with a trunk 12" to 29" in diameter, but may rarely reach a height of 80' and a trunk diameter of 4'. The black locust is not a native Delaware species, but is well enough distributed that it appears so. The species is widely cultivated, but often becomes invasive due to high seed production and prolific root sprouts. Not a good choice for a neatly maintained yard.

Black Locust along Rt 1 - 65 MPH blur

The Champion Delaware Black Locust is located on the grounds of the Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church and measures 151 inches in circumference, equal to a diameter of about 4 feet. It stands 80 feet tall.

Source: "Delaware Trees"


When you're walking in the woods this week, if you're lucky you may come across a carpet of “Canada Mayflowers” (Maianthemum canadense), also known as “False Lily-of-the-valley.”

Canada Mayflower, near Woodside, Kent County

The short, often zigzag stem has a small, dense, cluster of tiny, white, star-shaped flowers at its top and 1-3 ovate leaves. A low plant, only 4-10 in. tall, False Lily-of-the-valley blankets woodlands with its two shiny, oval leaves. The tiny white flowers are held in upright clusters on separate, delicate stems. The fruit is a small, pale red berry. The Latin name, Maianthemum, means "May blossom" - an appropriate name because the plant flowers in May.

Canada Mayflowers, in the woods near Woodside, Kent County

This common forest herb spreads by rhizomes and frequently forms carpet-like colonies. An unusual member of the Lily Family, it has only 2 petals, 2 sepals, and 4 stamens instead of the usual 3-3-6 pattern. A somewhat similar plant, Three-leaved Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum trifolium), usually has 3 elliptic leaves which taper at the base and white floral parts in a 6-pointed, star-like pattern. It is found in wet, boggy, or mossy areas from New Jersey west to Minnesota and north into Canada.


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