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Unit IV Kansas Plants: Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines Information

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1 Unit IV Kansas Plants: Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines Information

2 Trees, Shrubs and Vines Eastern Kansas is the boundary between eastern deciduous forest and the tallgrass prairie. There are many different types of forest ecosystems, just as there are many different types of prairie ecosystems. The main forest community in eastern Kansas is the oak-hickory forest. These are the largest and most predominant trees here. We will focus here on trees that are very common in eastern Kansas, and that can also be found in riparian areas of western Kansas. Riparian is the forested area along streams and rivers. Western Kansas does not have many trees, but there is good riparian habitat along the waterways, and many of these trees can be found along the streams and rivers as you move west.

3 Trees, cont. Tree identification: the easiest way is to look at the leaf. (the bark and overall height and shape are also valuable for identification) Leaf shape Oval, heart-shaped, oblong, lance-shaped, etc. Leaf margin (edge) Smooth, serrated (toothed), lobed, etc. Whether it is simple or compound Simple, pinnately compound or palmately compound. Where the leaf attaches to the branch you will find a fatter part of the leaf stem called the “petiole”. Look for this petiole, and you will be able to tell where the actual leaf begins. On compound leaves, the entire structure from the petiole to the tip is one leaf, and each blade is called a “leaflet”. Leaflets do not have a petiole.

4 Trees with simple leaves
Simple leaf with serrated margin Simple leaf with lobes Simple leaf with smooth margin (edge)

5 Trees with compound leaves
Pinnately compound leaf—all leaflets are attached to a central shaft. (The leaf begins where my index finger is. This is the petiole attached to the branch). Palmately compound leaf—all leaflets are joined in center. Bi-pinnately (or double-pinnately) compound leaf—leaflets are pinnately compound and attached to a central shaft.

6 Trees with Simple Leaves

7 Black Willow

8 Black Willow Long narrow serrated leaves
Trunk usually leans instead of growing erect. Lives at edges of ponds and streams in Kansas Inner bark layer of willow trees contains salicylic acid, the original active ingredient in aspirin and where aspirin as a medication was derived from. Native Americans used to make a tea out of willow bark which they used for the same purposes that we use aspirin.

9 Osage Orange (Hedge Apple)

10 Osage Orange (Hedge Apple)

11 Osage Orange Locally called the hedge-apple tree
Produces the large, green hedge apples Has small thorns all over the branches Planted by people and bird/animal droppings along fences as a windbreak. People have planted this tree as a windbreak (hence the term hedge row) since the Dust Bowl era in order to help prevent wind erosion.

12 Mulberry

13 Mulberry

14 Mulberry Note the variation in leaf shape—some leaves are heart-shaped with serrated edges, and many leaves have one to several deep lobes. All leaves have a serrated edge. Flowers in May when the leaves emerge. Fruits in May and June, with a blackberry-type fruit that is red when immature and blackish purple when mature. They are very good to eat! Many animals eat the fruits of Mulberries.

15 Elm sp.

16 Elm sp. Several species of Elm trees occur in Kansas, and the American elm used to be the most common. Many American Elm trees died in this country in the last 50 years due to Dutch Elm disease, a fungal disease which was spread by elm bark beetles. American Elm trees are still getting sick and dying from this disease, and resistant hybrids are trying to be cultivated. Various species of Elm trees, along with remaining American Elms, can still be found throughout Kansas.

17 Dogwood

18 Dogwood

19 Dogwood

20 Dogwood Smaller, under-story tree
Grows in dense thickets along roadsides, streams, fences, woodland edge Excellent for controlling erosion Slowly and carefully, split a leaf horizontally and you can slowly pull the two halves apart and you will see cottony fibers where the veins are. Only dogwoods do this. There are ornamental varieties of dogwoods because they have very pretty flowers and leaves turn nice colors in fall. Very hardy.

21 Cottonwood

22 Cottonwood Kansas State Tree Fast-growing tree and becomes massive
Leaf is triangle-shaped and has a flat stem, and makes a lot of noise in the wind—sounds like rain. In June, the females of this tree produce the huge clouds of cotton fluff that you can see floating around in the wind. There are very small seeds attached to the fluff and this is how cottonwoods are dispersed. Turns a beautiful golden yellow in fall.

23 Sycamore

24 Sycamore

25 Sycamore The sycamore has large, broad leaves with pointed lobes.
Bark peels away to reveal the white trunk and branches. Has pendant fruit balls hanging off by October. One of the largest trees in Kansas, and it grows usually along streams and rivers in the eastern half of the state.

26 Red Oak

27 Red Oak Tapered lobes ending in a point on the leaves
Acorns about size of penny Wood is good quality and often used in woodworking furniture or finish work in homes. This is also a popular landscaping tree and is found in many suburban yards.

28 Hackberry Leaf—notice the base of the leaf is uneven. This makes ID easy.

29 Hackberry Bark—notice how deep the bark appears.

30 Hackberry Narrow leaves with long, tapered tips and teeth all around; dark purple berries and warty bark. Very common tree in Kansas, often near water but can be found anywhere.

31 Maple sp.

32 Maple sp.

33 Maple sp. Acer is the genus, and there are several Maple species found in Kansas such as silver maple and sugar maple (eastern border). All species have a simple leaf with deep lobes, usually with five points. Popular landscaping tree genus because the leaves turn such beautiful colors in the fall, ranging from bright reds to oranges and yellows. Economically important because maple is a wood used for furniture and cabinetry. Sugar maples are the trees that provide the sap for maple syrup.

34 Eastern Red Cedar

35 With berries Eastern Red Cedar

36 Eastern Red Cedar The only native evergreen in Kansas
Planted as a wind barrier and is very effective Spreads rapidly on prairie and is difficult to control. Highly flammable. NOT for use as a Christmas tree—has volatile oils that ignite and burn hot and fast. Wood used for fence posts, chests, closet linings, and pencils. The oil from the tree is distilled for use in soaps, perfumes and cleaners.

37 Redbud

38 Redbud

39 Redbud Unmistakable in spring, with bright purple flowers like a pea flower, heart-shaped leaves. Common in eastern Kansas Ornamental tree for landscaping because if its smaller size and very pretty pink flowers that cover the branches in spring. Beautiful, but somewhat delicate. Breaks easily if people climb or swing on it.

40 Trees with Compound Leaves

41 Black Walnut

42 Black Walnut Long, pinnately-compound leaves
Fruit is about the size of a golf ball, green then turns black, with a thick husk. The nuts inside are edible. Drop from trees in October. Common in eastern Kansas. Most large trees have been harvested for lumber. Wood is dark brown, used for furniture and musical instruments, and is very beautiful.

43 Smooth Sumac

44 Smooth Sumac

45 Smooth Sumac Small tree, generally found about 6 feet tall, in large clumps of sumac trees. The large clumps of sumac trees are actually all the same individual that has put up many little trees. Leaves have a local anesthetic in them. You can chew them up and spit them out (they taste terrible—don’t eat!) and your mouth will be numb for awhile. Berries in the fall, when red, are very tasty to suck on and then spit out (bitter if chewed up). You can also steep the berries in hot water and make a tea that tastes like the fruit. Can add sugar.

46 Honey Locust Notice the extremely long thorns that cover the branches and trunk. Most of these in the picture are about 4” long.

47 Honey Locust

48 Honey Locust Large pinnately compound leaves
Long twisted brown bean pods, flat, about 1 inch wide and 10 inches long. Can vary in lengths. VERY thorny bark—cannot miss the thorns that can exceed 6 inches in length! Thorns are found in clumps all over the tree. First tree to grow on prairie near forest—initiates the invasion of prairie by forest. Some birds, like the Loggerhead Shrike, will use the thorns to “save” prey items. Once in a while you can find small lizards, mice, birds or frogs impaled on thorns.

49 Shrubs with Simple Leaves

50 Yucca

51 Yucca (a.k.a. Soapweed) Liliaceae, the Lily family. 2-10’ tall.
Stout stem rises from rigid, sword-like leaves. Flowers are 1.5” across, white. Typical of southwestern deserts, but they are also found across Kansas. Large petals are edible and are sometimes added to salads.

52 Buckbrush (Coralberry)

53 Buckbrush (Coralberry)

54 Buckbrush (Coralberry)
Also called Coralberry Grows in low (3 feet high) patches in open pastures or open woods. Has clusters of purple-red fruits that remain on plant all winter (too waxy for most birds, except Yellow-rumped warbler) Very common and spreads quickly

55 Shrubs with Compound Leaves

56 Poison Ivy

57 Poison Ivy

58 Poison Ivy rash after two days

59 Poison Ivy Can grow as a shrub (with compound leaves) or as a vine!!!
Three, mitten-shaped leaves sometimes with a red center where leaves all meet. Vines are “hairy” and can contain the oils even when dead. Don’t ever burn firewood that has the hairy vines—oils can get in smoke, and then your eyes and lungs. Most people will react to the oils on leaves. Leaves have different amounts of oils at different times, so it is possible not to get poison ivy sometimes, and get it others. Peppermint soap and oatmeal soap both help dry and soothe the itch from poison ivy. If you know you touch it, you have about 20 minutes to wash the affected area of your skin to wash off oils.

60 Vines

61 Bittersweet

62 Bittersweet

63 Bittersweet

64 Bittersweet Climbing vine, often along roadsides and near woodland edges Simple, alternate, deciduous leaves Fruits covered by an orange coat which splits into three sections Fruits open in late September, exposing brilliant red seed cover Often taken by humans for decoration- but only take short side branches instead of main stem, which will kill the plant

65 Bristly Greenbriar Stem is covered with very sharp thorns.

66 Bristly Greenbriar Stem is covered with very sharp thorns.

67 Bristly Greenbriar Simple, broadly egg-shaped leaves with 5 main veins that are obvious to the observer. Vine that grows in the woods and along fence rows in the eastern part of state—very common. Note the extremely thorny, black prickles that cover the main stem. Doesn’t form dense masses, but grows long.

68 Riverbank Grape

69 Riverbank Grape Very common grape vine in Kansas
Grows as name suggests—along rivers and streams. Smooth vine, unlike poison ivy. Grapes are small and an important food source for fruit-eating birds.

70 Virginia Creeper

71 Virginia Creeper

72 Virginia Creeper High climbing vine 5 palmately compound leaflets
Bright red fall foliage—can’t miss it in the fall. Often seen growing on tree trunks or utility poles, and keeps its red leaves longer than the trees around it, so you can see it very easily in fall when other trees are bare. Many people think this is poison oak—we don’t have poison oak in Kansas. Not poisonous at all.

73 Trumpet Creeper

74 Trumpet Creeper

75 Trumpet Creeper High climbing vine.
Can grow to the top of a 20 meter tree, or sprawl over rocks and dirt banks. Excellent for erosion control. Provides great cover for animals and hummingbirds visit it. Spreads aggressively and will dominate an area.

76 References Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines in Kansas by H.A. Stepehns, 1969, University of Kansas Press

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