Monday, June 30, 2014

Our Favorite Mid-Atlantic Trees and Why We Love Them

Corkscrew Sassafras Tree
by Ronald Springwater

Congratulations to Suzanne Ives Dunkley of Alexandria, VA, who won a signed copy of  City of Trees by Melanie Choukas-Bradley (Retail value: $28) in our June 2014 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest.

Washington, DC, boasts more than 300 species of trees from America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and City of Trees has been the authoritative guide for locating, identifying, and learning about them for more than 25 years.

We asked our readers to tell us their favorite trees and here are some of their responses:

“My favorite tree: gingko. I love its ancient history and rediscovery, its leaves and awkward spiky shape, and I especially love my gingko tree, which has two trunks because of early trauma - it's a survivor.”
- Erica Smith, Germantown, MD

“My favorite tree is the Eastern redbud.  I love this native tree's compact size, it's elegant sculptural form, and the beautiful fuchsia flowers in early Spring.  The flowers are edible too!”
- Madeline Caliendo, Washington, DC

“My favorite tree is the absolutely unique sassafras located in the National Arboretum on Mt. Hamilton where the azaleas are found (pictured above). It twists around itself to resemble a corkscrew.”
 - Ronald Springwater, Washington, DC

“Any day I am asked, I might choose a different "favorite" tree… I will say that today my favorite tree is a Sycamore tree - because of the beauty of the peeling bark, the stark whiteness of the trunk and the stately way the trees line certain watery passages such as the Potomac, particularly visibly in winter.  [But tomorrow, my favorite tree will be a Persimmon, because of the interesting "crocodile" blocky bark, the unusual form of the tree and the preference many birds seem to have for the tree - at least the one along my property line.]”
- Linette Lander, Takoma Park, MD

Eight years ago the ancient white oak that stood guard over our backyard relinquished its post. It had stood for 100 years but finally laid itself down when its forked trunk did what forked trunks tend to do eventually: split down the middle. On that day, I realized that oak trees are my favorite, strong and constant, beautiful yet resilient. It had sheltered us from many Atlantic storms, such as the nor’easters that pummel us in the mid-atlantic from time to time, or the occasional wayward hurricane. It allowed hostas to flourish in its shade and songbirds to frolic in its canopy. Skinks and centipedes slid over its exposed roots while raccoons and black snakes lazed in its branches. The oak tree is a true microcosm of life. When it is gone, you realize there was none like it.”
-         Suzanne Ives Dunkley of Alexandria, VA

“My favorite tree (right now) is the Japanese threadleaf maple in my backyard, because it provides cover for the fledging bunnies who were born in its shadow.  I can see it from my basement door each morning and, often as not, a rabbit is resting beneath its umbrella like branches.  It also managed to collect forget-me-not volunteers at its root line, and they are far more welcoming than the plantain weeds that I never get around to pulling!  My yard has dozens of much larger trees, mostly natives, but this one, with its protective shape and showy colors (it's the gren type), is my current favorite.”
-         Elaine Dynes, Silver Spring, MD
“My favorite tree is most definitely the Sweet Bay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)! I have mine planted in what can only be described as a raised, stone alter, so I can smell it from most of the rooms in my house. I first smelled and saw one, of all places, at the Cactoctin Zoo and it immediately went on 'the list'. It's fair to say that I will never live in a home without this tree nearby :).”
- Alison Mrohs, WDC region

“That is difficult to answer because I love many different trees for different reasons. For now I'll say the dogwood because its flower has always been a favorite of my mother's. Because of that it was probably one of the first flowers I could recognize and name as a child. I love how it lights up the woods in spring and how the vivid red berries feed the cardinals and squirrels in the fall.”
- Renay Lang, Leesburg, VA

What are YOUR favorite trees and why?


  1. Well I finally have to jump in because no one has chosen my current favorite canopy tree - the Black Gum. Its new growth and fall color are a lovely orangey pink. It's native, and does wonderfully here.

  2. Thanks for chiming in, Kit. The Black Gum is indeed a very handsome native tree that does not get much attention next to the showier flowering and exfoliating trees.

  3. Suzanne2:21 PM

    Thanks, WGM! I am honored and cannot wait to get my new book. I'm just glad you didn't ask us to write about our favorite weeds. (Don't tell anyone, but I love all my trees.)

  4. All the better for me! I happen to have a couple trees near me, and all my lilies are in full bloom. check here


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