Before the leaves are fully formed on most of the other trees, crabapple blossoms light up the woods all over western Pennsylvania. The crown of stamens and the blunt-toothed leaves are distinctive. These trees were blooming in Schenley Park in late April.
Gray places the genus Malus as a section in the larger genus Pyrus, but most modern botanists treat Malus separately. Gray’s description:
PYRUS [Tourn.] L. Calyx-like receptacle urn-shaped, bearing б sepals. Petals roundish or obovate. Stamens numerous. Styles 2-5. Fruit a large fleshy pome, or smaller and berry-like, the 2-6 cells imbedded in the flesh, papery or cartilaginous, mostly 2-seeded. —Trees or shrubs, with showy flowers in corymbed or umbellike cymes. (The classical name of the Pear-tree.) A large genus, often subdivided, but with sections less strongly or constantly marked than our few species would suggest.
MALUS (Hill) S. F. Gray. (APPLE.) Leaves simple; orifice of concave receptacle open; flesh of large subglobular fruit copious, free from sclerotic cells. Malus [Tourn.] Hill.
Leaves and usually the outer surface of the calyx-lobes glabrate.
Calyx-lobes persistent in fruit.
P. coronaria L. (AMERICAN CRAB.) Tree, somewhat armed, 6-10 m. high; leaves ovate or elliptic, usually rounded or even cordate at the base; those of the sterile shoots somewhat triangular-ovate and lobed, sharply serrate; petals broadly obovate, white or nearly so; pome greenish-yellow, hard and sour, 2-2.6 cm. in diameter, depressed-globose. (Malus Mill.) — Thickets and open woods, N. J. to Ont., Kan., and southw.
The beautiful flowers of this plant vie with wild roses (Rosa spp.) for spectacle, and indeed it is often planted as an ornamental. In the wild, it prefers a semi-shaded hillside; these were growing on a hill above the Allegheny River Boulevard near Verona, where they were blooming in late May. The leaves are more or less maple-shaped. The raspberry-like fruit, alas, is no good for eating.
Gray describes the genus and the species:
RÙBUS [Tourn.] L. BRAMBLE. Calyx 6 (3-7)-parted, without bractlets. Petals 5, deciduous. Stamens numerous. Achenes usually many, collected on a spongy or succulent receptacle, becoming small drupes; styles nearly terminal. — Perennial herbs, or somewhat shrubby plants, with white (rarely reddish) flowers, and usually edible fruit. (The Roman name, kindred with ruber, red.)
ANAPLÓBATUS Focke. Unarmed shrubs; leaves simple, 5-6-lobed or angled; flowers large and showy; fruit large, hemispherical, red. Rubacer Rydb.
R. odoràtus L. (PURPLE FLOWERING R.) Shrubby, 1-1.6 m. high; branches, stalks, and calyx bristly with glandular-clammy hairs; leaves 3-5-lobed, the lobes pointed and minutely toothed, the middle one prolonged; peduncles many-flowered; flowers showy (3-6 cm. broad); calyx-lobes tipped with a long narrow appendage; petals rounded, purple rose-color: fruit scarcely edible. — N. S. to Ga., w. to Mich.
Blackberry canes are full of thorns, but they give us blackberries, so who are we to complain? The flowers that precede the berries are like little white roses,as befits a member of the rose family—but curiously wrinkled and untidy roses, as if they had slept in their petals after a long night of exhausting revelry. These blackberries were blooming in early May by a wooden fence in Scott Township.
Gray describes the genus and the species:
RUBUS [Tourn.] L. BRAMBLE. Calyx 5 (3-7)-parted, without bractlets. Petals 5, deciduous. Stamens numerous. Achenes usually many, collected on a spongy or succulent receptacle, becoming small drupes; styles nearly terminal. Perennial herbs, or somewhat shrubby plants, with white (rarely reddish) flowers, and usually edible fruit. (The Roman name, kindred with ruber, red.)
Also known as Rosa luciae. This is the familiar pink rambling rose of roadsides and banks in the city and suburbs. It often persists around old homesites, but it also seems to appear spontaneously often enough that we can regard it as a naturalized citizen of our flora. This plant was blooming in late May on a hillside in Banksville.
Flowers: Five petals with shallow notches, light pink verging on white at the center, with a generous helping of bright yellow stamens.
Leaves: Dark green, elliptical, very regular, with toothed and pointed leaflets, thorns on the underside at each leaflet junction.
Stems: Arching, up to about six feet (about 2 m) high, or more with support.
All our standard botanical references ignore this plant, which apparently did not escape so frequently in the time of Gray or Britton & Brown.; but the excellent Wildflowers of Western Pennsylvania site has a very good description of the Memorial Rose.
These fine large trees produce an abundance of little white flowers in narrow racemes, followed by tasty black fruit. The crinkly rough bark of mature trees is distinctive. This tree grew at the edge of a field near Zelienople, where it was blooming in late May.
The similar Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana) also carries its flowers in narrow racemes, but its fruit is red, its bark is smooth, and it rarely grows into more than a medium-sized tree.
The large genus Prunus also includes plums and many other useful fruits. Cherries with flowers and fruit in narrow racemes are placed in the subgenus Padus. Gray describes the genus, the subgenus, and the species:
PRUNUS [Tourn.] L. PLUM, CHERRY, etc. Calyx 5-cleft; the tube bell-shaped, urn-shaped, or tubular-obconical, deciduous after flowering. Petals 5, spreading. Stamens 16-20. Pistil solitary, with 2 pendulous ovules. Drupe fleshy, with a bony stone. —Small trees or shrubs, with mostly edible fruit. (The ancient Latin name.) Cerasus B. Juss. Amygdalus L.
PÀDUS [L.] Reichenb. Drupe small, globose, without bloom; the stone turgid-ovate, marginless; flowers in racemes terminating leafy branches, therefore appearing after the leaves, late in spring. Padus Moench.
P. serótina Ehrh. (WILD BLACK or RUM C.) A large tree, with reddish-brown branches, the inner bark aromatic; leaves oblong or lanceolate-oblong.
In Pennsylvania Trees, an extraordinarily useful book issued by the Commonwealth’s Department of Forestry in 1914, Joseph S. Illick gives us this copious description (fortunately the march toward extinction he warns us about has been reversed):
WlLD BLACK CHERRY.
Prunus serotina, Ehrhart.
FORM—Usually reaches a height 0f 50-75 ft. with a diameter of 2-3 ft., but may attain a height of 110 ft. with a diameter of 5 feet. in forest-grown specimens the trunk is usually long, clean, and with littie taper, while in open-grown specimens it is usually short. Crown rather irregularly-oblong.
BARK—On young trunks rather smooth, glossy, reddish-brown, marked with conspicuous white horizontally-elongated lent icela: peels off in thin fiim-like layers, and exposed greenish inner bark. On old trunks blackish, roughened by thick irregular plates with projecting edges.
TWIGS—Smooth, rather slender, reddish-brown, marked with numerous, pale, round lenticels which in time become horizontally-elongated; pith white or light brown. Often covered with a thin, film-like, grayish coating which rubs off readily. Inner bark has a characteristic bitter taste and a rather pleasant odor.
BUDS—Alternate, about 1/8 – 1/6 of an inch long, ovate, usually sharp-pointed, smooth, glossy, reddish-brown, covered by about 4 visible ovate bud-acales which are sometimes coated with a smoky or grayish film-like skin. Lateral buds usually divergent but sometimes appressed, flattened, and larger than the terminal.
LEAVES—Alternate, simple, oblong or lanceolate-oblong, 2-5 inches long, tapering or rounded at bane, taper-pointed at apex, serrate on margin with short incurved teeth, rather thick and shiny above, paler beneath.
LEAF-SCARS—Alternate, more than 2-rankcd, raised on projections of the twig, semielliptical tendency in outiine, with 3 bundle-scars.
FLOWERS—Appear in May or June; white, perfect, about 1/4 of an inch across, borne in elongated drooping racemes 3-4 inches long.
FRUIT—A purpllsh-biaсk juicy drupe, 1/3 to 1/2 of an inch in diameter, arranged in rather open dropping clusters; seed stony. Matures in summer.
WOOD—Diffuse-porous; rays very distinct; heartwood reddish-brown; sap wood narrow and yellowish; moderately heavy, hard and strong, fine-grained, does not warp or split in seasoning. Young wood is very durable. Its value is due to color and lustre and not to figure. Weighs 36.28 lbs. per cubic foot. Used principally in furniture and finish, also used for tools like spirit levels, implements, patterns, cores, and for high class panels.
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS—The Wild Black Cherry, also known as Wild Cherry, Rum Cherry, Black Cherry, and Cabinet Cherry, may be distinguished from our other native species by its larger size and by the rough, dark, scaly bark which is found on the older trunks. For further distinguishing characteristics see Choke Cherry, page 171, and Fire Cherry, page 172. The introduced Domestic Cherry (Prunus avium) can be distinguished from this one by its stouter often grayish twigs, its smoother and shiny bark (Fig. 115) with conspicuous long and high lenticels and its clustered buds at the tips of stubby, lateral, spur-like branches. The fruit of the Domestic Cherry is larger than that of our native cherries and the leaves have rounded teeth often with glands and are frequentiy slightly pubescent on the lower side.
RANGE—Nova Scotia south to Florida, westward to South Dakota, Kansas, and Texas.
DISTRIBUTION IN PENNSYLVANIA—Found throughout the State. Rather common but nowhere very abundant. Usually occurs solitary in mixture with other species. Magnificent specimens were present in the original forest of Potter county. Thrifty pure stands of young trees occur at present on the Hull State Forest in southern Potter county. The specimen of this species contained in the Jessup Wood Collection exhibited in the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, was procured in Wyoming county, Pennsylvania.
HABITAT—Thrives best on rich alluvial soil and fertile slopes. It will grow on dry and often rather sterile slopes. On account of its long tap-root it requires loose deep soil. Forester George Perry reports that this species suffers least from late frosts of all the native trees of southern Potter county.
IMPORTANCE OF THE SPECIES—This is a very important timber tree. its wood is valuable especially for furniture and interior finish. Nowhere in its range has it ever been very abundant and on account of its prized wood it has been cut extensively. As a consequence it is now becoming rare, in fact marching towards extinction. It deserves to be planted extensively and to be protected carefully where it is found growing naturally.
This unassuming little member of the rose family likes to grow at the edge of the woods; this plant was growing on a shaded bank in Mount Lebanon, where it was blooming in the middle of June. The white flowers bear more than a passing resemblance to the flowers of blackberries or strawberries.
Gray describes the genus and the species, which he puts in the Eugeum or Geum-proper division of the genus:
Calyx bell-shaped or flattish, deeply 5-cleft, usually with 5 small bractlets at the sinuses. Petals 5. Stamens many. Achenes numerous, heaped on a conical or cylindrical dry receptacle, the long persistent styles forming hairy or naked and straight or jointed tails. Seed erect; radicle inferior. Perennial herbs, with pinnate or lyrate leaves. (A plant name used by Pliny.)
EUGEUM T. & G. Styles jointed and bent near the middle, the upper part deciduous and mostly hairy, the lower naked and hooked, becoming elongated; head of fruit sessile in the calyx, calyx-lobes reflexed.
* Petals white or pale greenish-yellow, small, spatulate or oblong; stipules small.
+ Receptacle of the fruit densely hairy.
G. canadense Jacq. Stem (0.6-1.1 m. high) and petioles sparingly hairy; leaves soft-pubescent beneath or glabrate, the basal of 3-5 leaflets or undivided, those of the stern mostly 3-divided or -lobed, rather sharply toothed; stipules ovate-oblong, 1-1.5 cm. long, subentire; petals white. (G. album J. F. Gmel.) Borders of woods, etc., widely distributed.
Also called Rough Cinquefoil, because it has rough hairs all over. This paradoxical cinquefoil has three leaflets rather than five. It grows in waste places and isn’t too particular about soil; this plant grew in the middle of a gravel driveway near Cranberry, where it was blooming in mid-June.
Gray makes this species a variety of P. monspeliensis:
POTENTILLA L. CINQUEFOIL. FIVE-FINGER
Calyx flat, deeply 5-cleft, with as many bractlets at the sinuses, thus appearing 10-cleft. Petals 5, usually roundish. Stamens many. Achenes many, collected in a head on the dry mostly pubescent or hairy receptacle; styles lateral or terminal, deciduous. Radicle superior. Herbs, or rarely shrubs, with com- pound leaves, and solitary or cymose flowers; their parts rarely in fours. (Name diminutive from potens, powerful, originally applied to P. Anserina, from its reputed medicinal powers.)
P. monspeliensis L. Stout, erect, hirsute, 2-1) dm. high ; leaves 3-foliolate; leaflets obovate to oblanceolate, those of the uppermost leaves toothed nearly the whole length ; cyme rather close, leafy; calyx large; stamens 15-20. Open soil, Nfd. to Alaska, s. to D. C., Mo., Kan., and N. Mex. May-Aug. (E. Asia.)
Var. norvegica (L.) Rydb. Less hirsute; leaflets more narrowly oblong, those of the uppermost leaves mostly 3-5-toothed near the end; inflorescence looser. (P. norvegica L.) Similar situations, e. Que. to n. N. E., L. Superior, and northwestw.; occasional on ballast southw. (Eurasia.)
This little creeper, found in shady lawns everywhere, bears bland, tasteless fruit that looks like wild strawberries, but it’s easily distinguished by its yellow flowers. Children like to tell each other that the fruit is poisonous and then dare each other to eat it. It’s perfectly edible, but not really worth eating. It is nevertheless much valued by herbalists, who suppose it to have useful medicinal properties.
The word “Indian” in the common name of a North American plant often means “not really.” Indian Tobacco is a lobelia; Indian Bean or Indian Stogie is the Catalpa tree. So it comes as a surprise that this plant, which seems to fit perfectly into that pattern, is actually an Asian import, named not for the aboriginal Americans but for India.
Gray describes the genus and the species:
DUCHESNEA Sin. INDIAN STRAWBERRY
Calyx 5-parted, the lobes alternating with much larger foliaceous spreading 3-toothed appendages. Petals 5, yellow. Receptacle in fruit spongy but not juicy. Flowers otherwise as in Fragaria. Perennial herb with leafy runners and 3-foliolate leaves similar to those of the true strawberries. (Dedicated to Antoine Nicolas Duchesne, an early monographer of Fragaria.)
D. indica (Andr.) Focke. Fruit red, insipid. (Fragaria Andr.) Waste ground, grassy places, etc., s. N. Y. and e. Pa. to Fla., Ark., and Mo. (Introd. from Eurasia.)
Thorny canes of blackberry can make the edge of the woods nearly impenetrable, but they reward us with these pretty (though often a bit sloppy) white flowers, and then of course with sweet blackberries. This stand grew at the edge of an old German Lutheran cemetery in Beechview.
Gray describes the genus and the species:
RUBUS [Tourn.] L. BRAMBLE
Calyx 5 (3-7)-parted, without bractlets. Petals 5, deciduous. Stamens numerous. Achenes usually many, collected on a spongy or succulent receptacle, becoming small drupes; styles nearly terminal. Perennial herbs, or somewhat shrubby plants, with white (rarely reddish) flowers, and usually edible fruit. (The Roman name, kindred with ruber, red.)
In June these clusters of white flowers appear along streambanks; these grew along the Peters Trail.
An upright cinquefoil with pale primrose-yellow flowers, probably the showiest of our native cinquefoils. It’s a common wild flower along trails and in vacant lots.
It has no common name, at least no name fit to print. For most of the year this invasive pest is a curse on the landscape. For two weeks in June, it is a heavenly delight, covered with sweet-smelling white roses.