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Information Center - Featured Trees

Tree Name Date Posted
   
Famous Trees of Austin (12-02)
   
Red Oak
Genus: Quercus
Family: Fagaceae (Beech)
(09-02)
   
Pecan
Genus: Carya illinoensis
Family: Juglandaceae (Walnut)
(09-02)
 
Live Oak
Genus: Quercus virginiana
Family: Fagaceae (Beech)
(09-02)
 
Ashe Juniper
Genus: Juniperus ashei
Family: Fagaceae (Beech)
(09-02)
   



Famous Trees of Austin
Tree Clinic Quarterly, July, 2002
By Jerry Pulley

In our office library we have this wonderful book called Famous Trees of Texas published by the Texas Forest Service.  The book’s preface states:

“The purpose of this book is to memorialize those trees which have been a witness to some of the exciting periods and events in Texas’ frontier history.”…Many of Texas’ historic trees are forever lost.  Inadequate records of their location, death by disease or neglect, and man’s thoughtless removal of those that stood in the way of progress have taken their toll.”

Indeed, many are gone.  The Washington Elm featured on the cover of the book is now gone.  It stood on the grounds of our State Capital.  The marker that stood beside the tree is still there. It reads:

“Washington first took command of the American Army under the grandparent of this elm at Cambridge, Mass., July 3, 1775.  Raised and given by the Maryland DAR, marked by Texas DAR.  This tree is planted as part of the 200th Anniversary of the birth of George Washington, 1732-1932.”

There are other historical trees in Austin that have faired better.  Most Austinites know of the Treaty Oak.  It’s located on Baylor Avenue between 5th & 6th Streets. 

“The tree is the only survivor of a group of live oaks known as the Council Oaks, under which Stephen F. Austin, the father of Texas, is reputed to have signed the first boundary-line agreement between the Indians and the newly arriving immigrants.  An imaginary line running north and south through the heart of this group of oaks divided the territory and remained inviolate for years.”

Lesser known Austin trees are the Auction Oaks, located in Republic Square at the southwest corner of the park at West 4th Street and San Antonio Avenue.  In 1839, when the Republic of Texas was scarcely 3 years old, Texas Congress directed that a site for a new capital be located on the east bank of the Colorado River in (what is now) Travis County.  Judge Edwin Waller was charged with laying out the capital city, which was to be named in honor of Stephen F. Austin.  He was to set aside the most valuable lots for the capital and governmental buildings, and sell not more than half of the remaining lots at public auction.

One square mile (640 acres) was surveyed on the bluff of gradually rising land overlooking the river, streets were established and lots laid out.  Lots were set aside for churches, schools, a university, the president’s house, a capitol and home sites.  In the shade of these live oaks, 301 city lots were auctioned.  Prices paid for the lots ranged from $120 to $2,800.

The Seiders Oaks are located at Seiders Springs, now a city park along Shoal Creek, between 34th and 38th Streets.  These trees got their name from Edwin Seiders who, following the death of his father-in-law, Gideon White, resided in (continued on next page)  the family cabin at that location.  In 1839, as construction for the new capitol building began, White moved his family north of the new settlement and built a log cabin near a fine spring on Shoal Creek.  In the spring of 1842, less than a quarter mile from the cabin he was set upon by a band of mounted Indians.  He fought valiantly before being killed.

He was one of several residents of the new city of Austin who were massacred by the Indians that year. Apparently neither the settlers nor the Indians made much effort to abide by the boundary line agreements that had been ratified years earlier, beneath the Treaty Oak.

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Red Oak
Tree Clinic Quarterly, 4th Qtr.2001
By Jim Houser

Genus: Quercus
Family: Fagaceae (Beech)

Red oaks produce some of the most colorful autumn foliage in Texas. They are a major component of most ecoregions in Texas and thus, when conditions are right, they paint the landscape with colors of red, yellow, burnt orange, and brown.

The oak genus, Quercus, has been classified in the beech family Fagaceae, mainly to satisfy our human need to bring hierarchial order to the universe. All oaks are then split into two groups, white oaks and red oaks (also sometimes called the black oaks). Live oaks do not fall neatly into either group, since they show characteristics of both.

Red oaks generally have lobed leaves with relatively soft bristles (aristae) on their tips. Acorns are shed each year, but each crop takes two years to mature. The first year, they appear as little scaly buds on the twigs, The acorns are high in tannic acid and the acorn cup has dense hairs or fuzz inside. Dormant buds are usually sharp pointed.

Texas has 15 species of red oaks, with two species frequently found in central Texas and the Edward's Plateau: Spanish Oak and Shumard Oak. Another species, Blackjack Oak, frequently occurs along with Post Oaks (a white oak species) and contributes to the tree cover of the Post Oak Savannah region, east of Austin.

Spanish Oak (Quercus Shumardii var. texana) is also known as Texas Oak (Quercus texana or Quercus buckleyi). It occurs on limestone hills and ridges in and around Austin on the Edward's Plateau west to the Pecos River. It is a small to medium sized tree, often multi-trunked due to the tree's tendency to sprout new stems from the base. Spanish Oak provides the major fall color display in the hill country, causing bands of bright scarlet and orange to adorn the hillsides.

Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii) is a large tree, growing up to 100 ft. tall with an open, spreading crown and a clear, symmetrical trunk. It is found scattered in moist woods and near streams in the eastern third of Texas. Like the Spanish Oak, it is adapted to our high pH (alkaline) soils and grows well in the Austin area. In the deeper soils in Austin, it attains its greatest growth and can be a magnificent tree.

Care should be exercised when purchasing a red oak or having one planted. Frequently, red oaks such as pin oak, turkey oak, or nuttal oak are obtained and they do not grown well in our alkaline soils. Many red oaks planted on commercial sites which are chlorotic (yellowish) and not growing well are species adapted to more acidic soil conditions. Red oaks planted along Congress Avenue in the 1980s were of the same family group and finally pulled out and replaced. Planting a tree often involves a considerable investment of time and money, so it makes sense to be sure that the red oak you plant on your property is one that is adapted to our area's growth conditions.

Red oaks produce some of the most colorful autumn foliage in Texas. They are a major component of most ecorgions in Texas and thus, when conditions are right, they paint the landscape with colors or red, yellow, burnt orange, and brown.

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Pecan
Tree Clinic Quarterly, 3rd Qtr. 2001
By Libby Pulley

Pecan, Carya illinoensis
Family: Juglandaceae (Walnut)
Etymology: Carya, the genus name, is derived from the Greek word root cary-, which means, "nut". The species name, illinoensis, refers to the state of Illinois, the tree at one time having been called Illinois Nut. "Pecan" is an Algonquian Indian word, formerly paccan.

There's a window in front of my office desk that overlooks the front lawn of Allen Elementary School. It always brings pleasure to my day to look out of that window to see the beautiful stand of pecan trees that graces the front lawn of the school. The trees look to be 20-30 years old. I wonder if children planted the trees. I admire the full and perfectly shaped canopies, and the inviting shade produced on hot summer afternoons. In the fall, I enjoy watching the folks who show up, bag in hand, in hopes of finding enough nuts for a pie.

Pecan trees, native to Texas and other states in the southeast central United States are especially appreciated for the shade they provide and the delicious nuts they bear, They grow well in deep, rich soils associated with streams and river bottoms, but are widely planted outside their natural range.

Pecans were an important food to native peoples of northern Mexico and Texas. It is thought that trees growing in the north Texas county of Hardeman were planted by Comanche Indians, because a group of trees exist just south of their burial grounds.

Hernando DeSoto is said to have eaten pecans in what is now Arkansas and Mississippi during his famous expeditions in search of gold in the mid 1500s. Much later, pecans were traded by trappers in the eastern United States. This facilitated the spread of the tree range, and today over 100 varieties of pecans have been developed, many in Texas. The nut is an important crop throughout the south, California, and Oregon. At one time the trees were so plentiful in Texas that they were cut down just to harvest a single crop of pecans. What an unfortunate waste of trees.

Male and female flowers are on the same tree, so self-pollination or cross-pollination may occur. Hybrid varieties of nuts offer superior taste, size, texture, and other qualities. Each has a name, and pecan growers and other folks have their favorites. Nuts ripen in the fall in clusters of three to eleven. They fall out of their bright green and aromatic husks starting in September. The rich, nutritious pecans are a treat to many animals including humans, squirrels, a number of bird species, opossums, and raccoons.

Where I live near Bastrop, along the Colorado River, there are several pecan trees growing in the rich riparian soil. One is estimated to be 200-300 years old. Several varieties of large and small hybrid nuts keep numerous wild animals on our property fat and happy. Feral hogs leave the ground directly under the tree canopies plowed where they rooted up and inhaled the small, but tasty pecans.

People use parts of the tree other than the seed. Leaves and bark have been used medicinally as an astringent. It is rumored that the high tannic acid content of the leaves inhibits the growth of some plants beneath the trees. Pecan wood is not important commercially, but occasionally used for furniture, flooring and paneling, agricultural implements, and fuel, and of course, to smoke foods.

Pecan is the state tree of Texas. The adoption of this particular tree by the 1919 Texas State Legislature probably has to do with the influence of a deathbed request from Governor James Stephen Hogg. Hogg is reported to have said to his lawyer and his daughter as he lay dying:

"Let my children plant at the head of my grave a pecan tree and at my feet an old-fashioned walnut tree; and when the trees bear, let the pecans and walnuts be given out among the plain people so they may plant them and make Texas a land of trees."

Hogg's wishes were indeed carried out. Two pecan trees were planted at the head of his grave, which is in Oaklawn Cemetery in central Austin, and a walnut tree at the foot of his grave. When the trees bore their first crop, Texas A&M University Horticulture Department gathered and distributed the nuts to individuals, schools, and other organizations throughout the state.

For the last three years, pecan production has been down, due to drought stress and reduced carbohydrate reserves. This year, however, pecan trees seem to be loaded heavily, so we look forward to a bountiful pecan harvest in fall of 2001.

References:
Famous Trees of Texas Assembled and Edited by John A. Haisler, Texas Forest Service Publication, 3rd Edition, 1984
Trees of East Texas Robert A. Vines, University of texas Press, Austin and London, 1977
Arbor Day National Arbor Day Foundation, November/December, 1992
Texas Trees: A Friendly Guide Paul W. Cox and Patty Leslie, Corona Publishing Co., San Antonio, Tx 1988
Woody Plants of Austin and the Hill Country Brother Daniel Lynch, Austin, Tx St. Edward's University, 1981
A Field Guide to Texas Trees Benny J. Simpson, Gulf Publishing Co., Houston, Tx. 1998 (Texas Monthly Field Guide Series)

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Live Oak
Tree Clinic Quarterly, 2nd Qtr.2001
By Libby Pulley

Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
Family: Fagaceae (Beech)
AKA: Coast Live Oak, Virginia Live Oak, Encino, Louisiana Live Oak, Southern Live Oak, Spanish encina

Majestic live oaks contribute to the romance of the south, where they may be viewed gracing the front lawn of an antebellum mansion, or creating a mysterious veil over a bayou when draped with Spanish moss. In North America, live oak trees grow along the coasts and slightly inland. They are quite tolerant of salt and quite intolerant of prolonged freezing temperatures; this may explain their coastal distribution. In central Texas, live oaks are native and the most popular landscaping tree. There are two main species of live oaks in our area, Quercus virginiana and Quercus fusiforma; they are intermingled and hybridized, which makes exact identification of a single tree sometimes difficult. According to filed books, Quercus virginiana has a slightly fatter acorn cap than does Quercus fusiforma.

Live oaks growing in a suitable environment reach 40-80 feet in height, and the canopy may spread to twice the height. A national champion live oak in Fort Davis, Texas is an impressive exception, measuring 123 ft. tall with a 30 ft. circumference.

Live oak is one of north America's relatively few broad-leaf trees that retain its green leaves year round just as most conifers keep their needles. Older leaves are actually shed each spring when new leaves unfurl from their buds. Nevertheless, the trees appear green in the winter, when others have defoliated, thus the name "live" oak.

Acorns, which mature around September, are the seeds of live oaks. Rich in oil, they are eaten by resident and migrating songbirds as well as quail, turkey, squirrel, and deer. Indians produced a cooking oil from live oak acorns somewhat comparable to olive oil. Early settlers soaked the bitter tannins out of the acorns and made grits, flour, and roasted nuts.

Very mature live oak trees have such personality, such character. These old oaks may even seem to harbor wisdom because they have survived so many seasons of nature and events of man. Live oaks have marked the site of many important events in Texas history including Santa Anna's surrender to Sam Houston at San Jacinto and also the rumored signing of the first boundary agreement between the Indians and early settlers at Treaty Oak in Austin.

Ah, such history. How fortunate we are to live amidst these beloved old trees!

References:
A Field Guide to Texas Trees Benny J. Simpson, Gulf Publishing Co., Houston, Tx. 1998 (Texas Monthly Field Guide Series)
Texas Trees A Friendly Guide Paul W. Cox and Patty Leslie, Corona Publishing Co., San Antonio, Tx 1988
Woody Plants of Austin and the Hill Country Brother Daniel Lynch, Austin, Tx St. Edward's University, 1981
Website: http://www.utexas.edu/ftp/depts/courses/mis311f/history/handbook/tptl.html (search treaty oak)

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Ashe Juniper
Tree Clinic Quarterly, 1st Qtr.2001
By Libby Pulley

Ashe Juniper, Juniperus ashei
AKA: mountain cedar, cedar brake, Texas cedar, sabino, enebro, tascate, taxate, post cedar, cedro, blue-berry juniper, rock cedar, Ozark white cedar

We call them cedar trees, but actually these evergreens are classified as junipers, members of the cypress family and the division coniferophyta (cone bearing plants). The species name, ashei, is in honor of the American botanist William Willard Ashe (1872-1932). Ashe junipers are the most common trees in the Austin area, flourishing especially in the limestone soil and full sun of the hill country.

All parts of the cedar tree are used by man and other animals. Extracted cedar-leaf oil is appreciated for its clean smell and used in a variety of household and other products. Tree resin contains up to 75% camphor (think Vicks VapoRub) and is used medicinally. Birds and mammals feast on the blue berries and the endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler uses (exclusively) the sloughed bark of very mature old growth trees for making its nest. Of course, cedar wood has been used by man for centuries for a myriad of products, from arrow shafts to fence posts.

Ashe junipers exist in two reproductive forms, like people do. There are male trees and female trees. Female trees are the ones that have the beautiful frosty blue-green berries, which are actually fleshy-scaled tiny cones in which seeds are produced. Male trees produce bright yellow projections, which emit the dreaded pollen that causes cedar fever. A truly impressive sight is that of a male cedar tree at the moment the conditions are just right and it releases a yellow cloud of pollen. (Aaaachewww!)

Author's note:
I found an interesting website, containing parts of a book being written by Elizabeth McGreevy-Seiler called Untwisting the Cedar, exploring and exposing myths of the Ashe juniper tree (see references below for web address). The author discusses the many misconceptions about the cedar tree passed around by generations of central Texas cedar-loathers. For example, It is regularly stated as fact that mountain cedar is a nonnative invader species to central Texas. McGreevy-Seiler gives plenty of evidence that Ashe juniper is indeed a native species- including that it was present here at the last ice age. She also explains why other commonly made criticisms of the species are not based on fact. It's a site worth visiting- it convinced me that the cedar tree of central Texas should not be judged entirely by the effects of its pollen!

References:
Native Texas Plants Sally Wasowski, Gulf Publishing Co. Houston, Tx. 1988
Trees of Central Texas Robert A. Vines, University of Texas Press, Austin, Tx. 1984
Website: http://juniper1.home.texas.net/cedarstuff.html
Elizabeth McGreevy-Seiler

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