TREE OF THE MONTH
This month we’re highlighting the Pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) with a photo taken of the grove in the Arboretum Woods. Native to the Eastern United States, Pawpaw trees are members of the custard apple family and grow in thickets in the forest understory and along woodland edges. This deciduous tree can grow in sun or shade, and prefers moist soils that are slightly acidic. The blooms appear before the leaves in the spring with a flower about 2
inches across turning from pale green to maroon or purple. The fruit - which is technically a berry - is up to 5 inches long and the largest produced by any tree native to the U.S., and ripens in the fall. Pawpaw has long been a source of both food and medicine for Native Americans. Pawpaw extract can be used to help overcome the ability of some cancer cells to reject chemotherapy. The ground-up bark and twigs from Pawpaws are used as an organic insecticide. The first reference of Pawpaw came in writings of Hernando DeSoto's expedition in the Mississippi Valley in 1541 when the fruit was used to feed his men. At the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Asimina spp. At KSU in Frankfort, Kentucky, there are more than 1700 trees acquired from stands of Pawpaws across 17 states. Pawpaws are medium-sized native understory trees and a good choice to plant in our parks and yards. They have surged in popularity in recent years as people look to bring native plants and food sources back to their landscape. Pawpaws require pollination from a second tree with different genetics, and are pollinated by flies and wasps rather than bees. Some people seek out grafted cultivar stock for quicker flowering, earlier fruiting, and better flavor. There are 45 or more cultivars of Pawpaw selected for their fruit characteristics. Next time you walk through the woods at the Arboretum, take a moment to appreciate these lovely and fascinating native fruit trees, and consider adding one to your yard.
This beautiful Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica) located in the Lexington Cemetery is also known as a tupelo, black tupelo, or sour gum tree. A Kentucky native, Blackgum trees are a medium sized deciduous tree that is one of our most attractive in the fall with shades of yellow, orange, red and purple leaves that often appear on the same branch. It prefers well-drained acidic soils with full to partial shade and grows at a rate of 1
rate of 1 to 2 feet a year with a height of 30 to 50 feet and a canopy spread of 20 to 30 feet. This tree produces white flowers in spring that attracts our native pollinators and small bluish-black fruit in early fall that is a good food source to many of our birds and other wildlife. The Black Gum is a perfect native tree to replace non-native pear trees since they are of a similar size and have similar leaf color in the fall. This species is excellent for the landscape and because of ‘gum’ in the name is sometimes confused for Sweetgum, a different native tree that drops spiky seed balls, which are not appealing to some people.
A large 73 inch DBH Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) is located on Parkers Mill Road near the corner of Tiverton Way. Originally native to the southwestern United States, these trees were used so extensively to create natural fences in the 19th century throughout the Midwest that they are now considered naturalized to the region. Osage orange is also known as a “hedge apple” tree because of its use as a hedge, and for its wrinkled yellow-green softball sized fruit. It can withstand almost any growing conditions, has long thorns and can grow up to 50 feet tall. Small green flowers appear in May
and June. The fruit matures in September and early October. This tree is dioecious, meaning that it produces male and female flowers on separate plants. The female trees are not recommended for landscape use because the large fruit can pose a considerable litter problem. The large fruit have little value as a food source for wildlife. There is an unproven theory that these hedge apples were eaten by Mammoth and large ground sloths, both of which are extinct. It has also been said that the strong stems made excellent bows and arrows that Native Americans used for hunting. One of our arborists, Dave Leonard, has suggested a good
variety to use in landscaping is White Shield Osage-orange, which is a fruitless cultivar with few or no thorns.
Near the entrance to Lansdowne Estates, three weeping willows (Salix babylonica) are located along a small stream. Weeping willow is native to China and has gracefully arching stems that dangle down, sometimes touching the ground. The leaves of his fast growing deciduous tree are lance-shaped and grow 3 to 6 inches long, and turn yellow before dropping in autumn. It blooms with yellow catkins in
early spring and has a rough gray bark with long deep ridges. Weeping willow grows best in moist soils with full sunlight and has a relatively short lifespan of about 30 years, during which it may reach a height and width of 50 feet. Willows are excellent trees for planting in our riparian zones next to streams and reservoirs where they help filter water and stop erosion. Look for these beautiful trees next to waterways in many of our city parks.
Near Section 29 in the Lexington Cemetery you'll find this 47.5 inch DBH Cucumber Magnolia (Magnolia acuminata). This species is native to eastern North America and reaches its largest size in the southern Appalachian Mountains. This is a deciduous magnolia that produces 2 to 4 inch tulip-like flowers on late spring. Cone-like fruits mature to a showy red in late summer. These fruits release red-coated seeds suspended on slender threads at maturity. Also known as Cucumbertree or Mountain Magnolia, this tree prefers moist well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade, and is sensitive to heat and drought with a low tolerance for soil compaction. The trunk can reach over 4 feet in diameter with a height of 80 feet and canopy spread of 60 feet. Cucumber Magnolia trees belong to one of the oldest plant families with fossilized remains dating back 20 million years. There is another Cucumber Magnolia tree in Lexington Cemetery that measured over 54 inches DBH, possibly making it the largest in Kentucky.
Native to the Southeast United States, Sweetbay Magnolias (Magnolia virginiana) can grow to a height of 50 feet. In southern climates, they may grow even taller, and tend to hold onto their leaves year round. In northern areas they rarely exceed 30 feet & can lose their leaves in the winter. Best grown in moist acidic soils, Sweetbay Magnolia trees feature creamy white flowers with a sweet lemony fragrance in the late spring and summer. The fruiting cones consist of pinkish colored fruit that burst open to release the seeds when ripe. This is an outstanding ornamental tree because it creates less mess than other magnolia tree species. Look for Sweetbay Magnolia trees in many of our neighborhoods this summer to experience the intoxicating fragrance of their flowers. This gorgeous specimen is on Fontaine Road near the corner of High Street in Lexington, Kentucky.
This beautiful Chinese Chestnut Tree is located in section 32 at the Lexington Cemetery. Native to northern China and Korea, it is a medium sized deciduous tree that at maturity reaches 40 to 60 feet tall with a canopy spread of 40 to 60 feet wide. This chestnut grows best in well-drained acidic soils. The Chinese Chestnut is resistant to the fungal canker blight, responsible for decimating the American Chestnut in eastern United States forests in the early 20th century. In June the cream flowers produce a fragrance that some find unpleasant. These flowers
develop into an abundance of edible chestnuts which are enclosed in a spiny casing about 2 to 3 inches across. Because these casings create a mess, it is best to plant Chinese Chestnut trees away from pavement or recreational areas. The nuts are also a source of food to many different types of wildlife.
This beautiful Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) is located on Providence Road near the corner of Eldemere Road. Native to the southern and eastern United States this ornamental tree can attain a height of 20 feet or more and has a canopy spread of up to 20 feet at maturity. It grows at a slow to medium rate and prefers a daily minimum of four hours of direct unfiltered sunlight. Red Buckeyes like acidic loamy well-drained soil. It's canopy tends to be an oval shape with numerous red blossoms arranged in erect 4 to 8 inch long panicles in springtime. Hummingbirds are
attracted to the flowers which bloom as migration cycles bring them back to our area. In early fall the RedBuckeye loses its leaves and produces fruit about 2 inches in diameter with a smooth tan shell that encloses 1 to 3 dark brown seeds. The buckeye tree was named for the brown seeds that have a whitish spot and give the seed the appearance of a deer's eye. Look for Buckeye trees blooming the first week of May. Besides the Red Buckeye, there are also the Yellow Buckeye and Ohio Buckeye in our area, which both have yellow blossoms.
This National Champion American Basswood (Tilia americana) is located in Lexington Cemetery next to the memorial for Henry Clay. With a height of 102 feet, circumference of 276 inches, and crown spread of 85 feet, this truly is a magnificent tree. In summer, Basswood trees produce creamy white to pastel yellow bracts of flowers that have both male and female parts. The flowers have a pleasing fragrance that attract bees and butterflies, but their abundant production of pollen can be aggravating to people with allergies. After the bloom fades pea-size winged
nutlets with thick skins appear. The heart shaped leaves are up to 6 inches long and wide, with a green upper surface and a paler green under side. In autumn, the leaves turn light yellow to gold or tan before falling. This National Champion Basswood Tree has been estimated to be close to 250 years old. In 1987, the National Arborist Association and the International Society of Arboriculture recognized this significant tree as having lived since the signing of the U. S. Constitution in 1787.
This massive 64.5 inch DBH American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is located on Richmond Road near the corner of Sycamore Avenue. Sycamore trees are medium to fast growing and can attain a height of 70 to 100 feet with a crown spreading 65 to 85 feet. Their native habitat are the Eastern deciduous woods of the U. S. and are abundantly found along streams and in bottom lands. Its bristly rounded fruit hang on a pendulous stalk that turn to 1-inch brownish balls and persist into winter. The maple-like leaves vary in size and shape turning brown in fall. Leaf drop can be messy with chemicals released in
decaying leaves that can prevent growth in underlying grass. The outer brown bark tends to flake off in patches exposing an appealing white inner bark. This particular Sycamore tree was used as a landmark on some maps of Lexington from the late 1800's. This would date this tree as being close to 200 years old or more. Sycamores are an important tree species to help maintain the health and beauty of our riparian areas.
Weeping Nootka False Cypress
Located on the Clay Avenue side of Woodland Park is this beautiful Weeping Nootka False Cypress (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula'). This conifer tree is a part of the Woodland Park Tree Trail and has a plaque at it's base installed by the Lexington Tree Board. Native to the Pacific Northwest Coast, this False Cypress is best planted in well drained, slightly acidic soils with full sun. It can grow to a height of 50 feet with a spread of 20 feet and has small cones. Although it likes moist soil, it has some drought resistance. In our region the Weeping Nootka False Cypress seems to be pest & problem free.
These two American Holly (Ilex opaca) trees are located in the Lexington Cemetery. Holly trees are dioecious, meaning the male and female reproductive organs are in separate individuals. In this photo, the tree on the left is a male American Holly, and the tree with the red berries on the right is a female. Native to the Eastern United States, American Holly trees prefer well-drained soils with normal moisture, but the tree has shown some drought resistance. It features leathery leaves, 2-4 inches long with sharp tipped margins. Flowering in spring, the male has stamens with yellow pollen, while the flowers of the female tree have a round ovary in the middle.
The female must be pollinated by a male tree to produce the red berry-like fruit – one that is quite popular with a variety of native birds. Stacy Borden, our Board President, has noticed that a flock of robins always seems to show up on Superbowl Sunday every year to feast on the berries of his next door neighbor's American Holly tree.
Located on the Henry Clay Estate along Richmond Road between Sycamore Road and Woodspoint Drive is this beautiful, stately Norway Spruce (Picea abies). The tree stands over 60 feet tall with a DBH of 48.5 inches. Spruce trees are conifers as they do not lose their leaves during the winter. Native to Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe the Norway Spruce is the fastest growing of the spruces and is easy to transplant. It likes well-drained acidic soils and has been shown to be drought tolerant. The branches typically hang downwards with 4" to 6" cones that sit upright on the branches until fertilized. Once they have been fertilized, the cones gradually turn downward. A wide variety of wildlife are supported by Norway Spruce trees, especially during winter months. In many European countries this conifer is a Christmas tree favorite.
Ginkgos of the Henry Clay Estate
There are two large Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) trees, both over 50 inches DBH, near the front of the house at the Henry Clay Estate. Also known as the maidenhair tree, the unique fan shape of ginkgo leaves makes it easy to identify. The trees are native to Eastern China and were first brought to America in 1784. The oldest fossils of ginkgo leaves date back 270 million years to the Permian Period. Though not native to our region, Ginkgo trees do well as street trees because they are highly adaptable and drought tolerant. When planting it is best to choose a male Ginkgo because female trees produce fruit with a unique odor. The mid-November autumn color display of Ginkgos is spectacular with its bright yellow leaves changing and falling over just a few days. These two beautiful 160+ year old trees were planted after the death of Henry Clay, most likely by his son James Brown Clay who built the current house in 1857.
S. Ashland American Elm
This large American Elm (Ulmus americana) is located on the 200 block of South Ashland Avenue. It has a DBH of 62 inches and stands about 50 feet tall. The age of this tree is possibly older than the neighborhood that dates back to 1900. As you approach it on the sidewalk, you can see the sidewalk has been adjusted to curve around this big elm tree. Although it has lost some good size limbs in the past it appears to be otherwise healthy. American elm trees have been subject to what is known as Dutch Elm Disease. This disease is caused by fungi spread by elm bark beetles which are originally native to Asia. These beetles were accidentally
introduced to Europe and America where they have devastated native elm trees that lack resistance to this disease. The name Dutch Elm Disease refers to its identification by Dutch phytopathologists in 1921. American elm trees are extremely hardy and have been known to withstand temperatures of minus forty degrees Fahrenheit.
Richmond Road Pin Oak
This large beautiful Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) located at 2891 Richmond Road stands over 70 feet tall and has a DBH of 55.5 inches. We have chosen this large mature healthy Pin Oak tree because it is located on property for a planned new development. The current new development plan would result in the removal of this significant tree and most of the other trees on this site. The LFUCG Tree Board has asked for the new owner to save this tree by redesigning their plan for this property. The city's Planning Department is going to be working with the developer to hopefully adjust their development plan. The environmental benefits of this mature significant Pin
Oak with its wide spreading canopy cannot be replaced by replanting many smaller trees. Large mature trees are becoming more scarce in our city and these trees need everyone to help protect them.
Woodland Park Shumard Oak
This stately Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardi) located in Woodland Park stands approximately 70 to 80 feet tall and has a DBH of 61.5 inches. This red oak species is native to our Bluegrass Region and is considered one of our significant trees. Shumard Oaks are fast growing and drought tolerant, preferring well-drained soils. It is a good tree to grow in an urban environment because of its ability to tolerate pollution and compacted soils. It has 4 to 8 inch deep-lobed pointed leaves and produces small acorns every 2 to 4 years which are a favorite food source for deer, squirrels, chipmunks and some birds. In the spring these oaks have brown or greenish catkin flowers that have both male and female parts, making
this tree monoecious or unisexual. Shumard Oaks make a dramatic addition to our fall color with leaves that turn a brilliant red to red-orange. Woodland Park is one of Lexington's oldest parks and is the site for Ballet Under the Stars and the annual Woodland Arts Fair.
There was a Woodland Park Tree Trail brochure done in 2010 by the University of Kentucky Forestry Department that is accessible on the LFUCG Tree Board website: www.lexingtonky.gov/boards/tree-board. Look under Supporting documents for Woodland Park Tree Trail project.
This year Trees Lexington! volunteers will be helping LFUCG Parks employees mulch the trees in Woodland Park from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturday July 17th and Saturday July 24th.
Rosemont Garden Northern Red Oak
This beautiful mature Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) located on Rosemont Garden has a DBH of over 47 inches and stands about 70 feet tall. It has alternate leaves with 7 to 11 spine-tipped lobes that are 4" to 8" long. In the spring this oak tree produces pale yellow-green catkins that appear at the same time as new foliage. In Autumn the bristle pointed leaves turn a lovely russet-red to bright red color. It yields acorns that are round and 3/4 to 1 inch long with a flat saucer-like cap that provide a preferred food source for wildlife including, deer, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, bears, blue jays and turkeys. In the wintertime deer are known to browse on its
buds and twigs. Northern Red Oak trees can tolerate pollution and compacted soil and if given enough space can be a good tree for a front yard or possibly be a street tree. It appears in the upper forests of the Bluegrass and has been a favorite of both the lumber and landscape industries since colonial times. Northern Red Oaks grow best in full sun and have a fast growth rate, with height increases of two feet per year. It needs acidic well-drained clay soils and prefers normal moisture but shows some drought tolerance. It offers good shade due to a dense crown and is easier to transplant than most trees. Look for the spended red leaf display of the Northern Red Oak every October.
SCAPA Northern Catalpa
This large 65 DBH Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) is located on the campus of the Fayette County Public School know as SCAPA, the School for the Creative and Performing Arts. When this building site was being considered in the 1990’s, FCPS had the foresight to have the architect design a building around this beautiful tree. Northern Catalpa Trees have a white orchid type bloom that appear in dense clusters about the end of May or beginning of June. Because of its flower, the Catalpa is considered an ornamental tree. Later in the summer they have long bean like seed pods that can grow 8 to 20 inches. The Catalpa is the sole food source for the Catalpa Sphinx Moth. The caterpillar of this moth eats the leaves and is known as the catalpa worm, which is often used as bait for fishing. The word
catalpa originates from the Native American Creek word meaning “winged head”, describing the flower. First cultivated in 1754, the wood from this tree was used as fence posts, and later also as railroad ties, because of its resistance to rot and its fast growth rate. Catalpa is sometimes pronounced “catawba”, and they have also been called “fish bait trees”, “bean trees” or “cigar trees”. The Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides) differs from its northern cousin by being smaller with blossoms that are lavender or purple in color and having shorter seed pods.
Kenton's Blue Hole Chinquapin Oak
Located off Parkers Mill Road at the corner of Chinquapin Lane is this 74 inch DBH Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii). This oak is one of the largest of its kind in Fayette County, and is growing near Kenton's Blue Hole, named after the early pioneer landowner Simon Kenton. Chinquapin Oaks are one of the iconic oaks native to Central Kentucky, and grow well in our alkaline soil. The acorns from these oak trees are known for being especially sweet and palatable, and were used as a source of food for Native Americans and early pioneers. Chinquapin Oaks can be seen growing along side large Blue Ash and Bur Oaks in many of the horse farm pastures in the Bluegrass.
Duncan Park is located at the corner of North Limestone Street and Fifth Street, and encompasses about five acres. This beautiful big Bur Oak stands near the entrance and has a DBH of 66.5 inches. This neighborhood park has a number of mature large trees, including red oaks and more Bur Oaks. Also located in this park is the William Morton House built in 1810, which is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. In 1838 this house was bought by the abolitionist Cassius Clay, who published Lexington's first abolitionist newspaper, which he called The True American. In the 1850's Henry T. Duncan, who later became mayor, bought the house and put considerable effort into maintaining the grounds. The property became a city park about 1912 with a design from the Fredrick Olmstead firm. Sadly Duncan Park was designated a whites only park by the state until 1956. For some time now the Morton House has been occupied by the Center for Women, Children, and Families. The city is currently considering selling the house to this organization. The first Peace Walk of 2021 was held in Duncan Park on Saturday April 24th.
Duncan Park Bur Oak
When Kentucky Statesman Henry Clay purchased 600+ acres just outside of Lexington in 1804, he decided to name it Ashland in honor of the Blue Ash trees on the property. Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata) is a member of the olive family, and has twigs that typically have four corky ridges giving them a square appearance, hence the species name, quadrangulata, meaning four angled. Blue Ash are either female, with flowers & seeds, or male, with no seeds. The large male Blue Ash at Ashland is located closer to Richmond Road near the corner of Woodspoint Road and has a DBH of 60.4 inches. The female Blue Ash is located off Woodspoint Road near Ashwood Road, and has a DBH of 57 inches. Both of these Blue Ash trees have an estimated age of over 250 years, older than the original purchase of the property by Henry Clay.
The name Blue Ash was given to this tree because it has a gelatinous substance on its inner bark that turns blue when exposed to air. It was used by the early European settlers as a blue dye to color yarn. Blue Ash trees have a gray platy bark, grow in limestone soils and are drought tolerant. They are often seen in our Bluegrass region alongside Bur Oaks and Chinquapin Oaks in horse or cattle pastures. It has also been observed that healthy Blue Ash trees seem to be resistant to the Emerald Ash Borer, that has killed most untreated ash trees in our area. This resistance might be due to the fact that Blue Ash are genetically and physiologically different from other types of ash trees. Another large Blue Ash tree is located close to these trees at the corner of Ashwood Road and Barrow Road.
The Blue Ash Trees At Ashland
Marcia Lamont Hopkins @2021
The McConnell Springs Oak
The giant Bur Oak tree at McConnell springs is estimated to be at least 250 years old. This beauty thrived due to the Oak Savannah system that was prevalent in the Bluegrass region. Oak trees such as this one survived thanks to low competition from other trees in addition to the open fields surrounding them.
This gorgeous oak was even alive in 1775 when the McConnell party made a camp in the area now known as McConnell Springs. By this tree is where they decided to name the new settlement Lexington after the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts.
Through a long chronology of events and changes, the tree has thrived, though one side of its branches have grown out and over a pedestrian path. Prior to this project, the tree was not able to provide itself the support needed to counterbalance these large branches. Professionals had climbed the tree to determine if installing a cable system would be the answer, however, they instead noticed that the core of the tree is hollow, compounding the problem. To create the necessary support and keep the Bur Oak from falling over, a collaboration between LFUCG arborists, the Citizen’s Environmental Academy, University of Kentucky Interior Design faculty and students, as well as local Tree Specialists and a Metal Artist, elicited the design and installation of a unique tree crutch that signifies the reciprocal relationship between man and nature.
The Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) ranges from Manitoba and Nova Scotia, west to Wyoming and Kansas, and south to Texas. Nowhere does it grow better than in the Bluegrass of Kentucky. It was named bur oak in 1801 by Francois Michaux, a French explorer and botanist, when he documented many of the oaks in Kentucky.
An outstanding example of the bur oak is growing on a former buffalo (bison) trace in Lexington known currently as Harrodsburg Road. It is 63” in diameter and over 300 years old, predating the arrival of white settlers. It is hollow and has housed many generations of groundhogs and foxes over the years. The Schoolhouse Bur Oak is named for the South Elkhorn Elementary School that was active prior to 1887 and taught students through the Depression and into WWII.
There used to be two large bur oaks on this site. The larger one fell 20 years ago, crushing a car but not harming anyone. In 2008 the area was slated for development and the tree was to be removed. Many residents spoke against the plan and the developer agreed to move a road to save the tree. The Schoolhouse Oak enjoyed a respite as the housing market collapsed and the project was abandoned.
In 2013 another developer, Ball Homes, wished to develop the area. This time they consulted with several arborists and street layouts were adjusted to save the tree. It was placed in a mulched preservation area, was pruned to remove deadwood, and had a lightning protection system installed in it. As inspected in January of this year the mulch circle is now covered with fescue and the lightning system is in need of maintenance. The preservation efforts need to be renewed and maintained.
The Old Schoolhouse Oak