Understory Tree ID - keeps leaves in winter

beechbeardFebruary 28, 2013

This question is driving me crazy because I haven't been able to figure out a query for what should be an easy answer.

In the NE there is a deciduous tree/shrub that keeps its leaves until until new leaves begin growing in the spring. The plant seems to have a maximum height of 20 ft. The leaves do turn to a light brown tan color.

The tree is very common and noticeable in the winter woods.

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carol23_gw

Carpinus caroliniana ?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 9:10AM
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esh_ga

Or American beech, Fagus grandifolia.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 12:21PM
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beechbeard

Thank you both so much! The Fagus Grandiflora picture nailed it.

This was one of those "bucket list" things. Every year from spring to fall they fade into the background and then winter comes again and I'm reminded that I did not figure it out yet.

Spent a lot of time trying to create a query that would google up the name with no success.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 12:44PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Just an FYI, besides the beech some oaks hold onto last year's leaves into winter as well. Both the oak and beech are common in our eastern hardwood forests.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 2:12PM
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beechbeard

Thank you, I am pretty sure that the leaf shape doesn't match the oak family.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 3:17PM
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esh_ga

The tree does get bigger than 20 feet, but it seems to lose that characteristic as it gets bigger/older.

What a coincidence given your user name!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 3:26PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

Oaks are in the beech family (Fagaceae). I take it you meant the leaves don't look like oak leaves. Beech is pretty easy to ID as each of the prominent lateral veins ends in a tooth along the margin. Also look for very long, pointed buds this time of year.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:37PM
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beechbeard

Thank you, I had not known that. I also did not realize that Chestnuts were in the family (planted an American Chestnut last year - had to search for a specimen). Looking forward to how it did this winter.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 8:23AM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

This question is driving me crazy because I haven't been able to figure out a query for what should be an easy answer.

Here's an approach I find helpful:
1 - Search for the proper term for the characteristic with something like "retain leaves in winter" (Wikipedia page for "marcescence" shows up as 4th or so item).

2 - Perform an image search with that term; "marcescent trees" in this case.

If lucky, you'll find BOTH a photo that matches what you're trying to identify AND a link to a website that includes a name.

Here is a link that might be useful: Image search for marcescent trees

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 11:12AM
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weedwoman(z6 NJ)

These are big, common trees in NJ, although it's true that the leaves don't seem to hang on so noticeably once the trees get larger. But nobody has mentioned their best ID characteristic, which is the beautiful smooth gray bark.

WW

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 12:42AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Yes, even when they are old and very large, the beautiful smooth gray bark is still present.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 9:57AM
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beechbeard

weedwoman,

I am blushing as I type. I cannot believe that I missed so obvious a query. Most of the time I see a specimen it is from a distance and in a (probably) sheltered location. So I see the beautiful leaves back lit. It never occurred to me that there may be other specimens (less sheltered) that lost all, or some, of the leaves. For example, I have a pin oak in an exposed location. I would never have guessed that it was a marcescent tree. I just assumed that the few leaf stragglers were overacheivers.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 11:27AM
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