Plant Characteristics:

  • Tree: 75 to 100 ft tall
  • Bark: dark grey, divided into irregular flat topped ridges; inner bark reddish-brown layers
  • Form: crown vase shaped
  • Blooms: February to April
  • Buds: egg shaped over 1/4 in long, reddish-brown with darker edged scales
  • Twigs: slender with zig-zag appearance
  • Flowers: small in drooping clusters of 3 to 5; first to appear in the spring before leaves
  • Leaves: deciduous, alternate, simple, smooth to rough textured, 3 to 6 in long, oval with double-toothed edges, elongated tip slightly curved, base is uneven or oblique, petiole short
  • Fruit type: small seed encased in a rounded, flattened, papery hairs along the edge (ciliate), samara, deeply notched at the tip; wind dispersal
  • Fall Foliage: yellow

Additional Details:

  • In early spring, goldfinch and purple finches are attracted to the fruiting tree.
  • Also provides cover and nesting sites for birds.
  • Twigs are browsed by deer, cottontail rabbit, gray squirrel and fox squirrel.
  • Larval host to the Columbia silkmoth (Hyalophora columbia), Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia comma), Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis), and Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui).

References:
Brown, R. and M. Brown. 1972. Woody Plants of Maryland. Port City Press, Baltimore, MD.
Foster, S. and J. Duke. 1990. A field guide to medicinal plants of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.
Grimm, W. C. and J. Kartesz. 2002. The Illustrated Book of Trees. Stackpole Books. Mechanicsburg, PA.
Harris, J. and M. Woolf Harris. 1994. Plant Identification Terminology: An illustrated Glossary. Spring Lake Publishing, Spring Lake, UT.
Peterson, L. 1977. A field guide to edible wild plants of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.
Virginia Department of Forestry. 2022. Common Native Trees of Virginia – Tree Identification Guide.