Larch, Cedar, etc.
There is a group of evergreens that contain some oddball trees, not fitting in the typical mold of conifers. It must have been somewhat difficult for the early botanists to name and classify some of these trees. Case in point, the Larch tree—a deciduous conifer that sheds is needles every fall and grows them back in the spring. Larch trees really aren’t evergreen, but they do have needles and seeds encased in a woody cone. Larch trees are found in northern latitudes in North America, Europe, and Asia. Larch trees have single deciduous leaves that connect to the branch in a spiral arrangement. The Eastern larch, or Tamarack tree, has a wide distribution across most of the northern section of North America. In the southern part of its range, it is normally found in cool swampy areas or sphagnum bogs. In the northern part of its range, it is found on a variety of sites. Tamarack is a fast grower, and needs plenty of sunlight to develop.
The Douglas fir is a tree with an identity problem. The Genus name for this tree, Pseudotsuga, means “false hemlock.” So is it a hemlock? Not really. The common name, fir, would put it in the fir family, correct? Not quite. Some of the early settlers to the Pacific Northwest named this tree the Oregon pine tree. Really? Most early botanists that studied this tree believed that the tree most resembled a spruce tree. Not Really. In fact, the pointed buds, spiral leaves, and characteristic cone with three lobed bracts are unlike hemlocks, firs, pine, or spruce. Finally, botanists concluded that the Douglas fir fits into its own unique genus.
There are six species of pseduotsuga found throughout the globe, mostly in the far eastern countries such as China, Japan and Taiwan. The lone species found in North America is the Douglas fir. Douglas firs are one of the fastest growing and largest trees found in North America, with some specimens growing to a height of 250 feet. There is a costal form and Rocky Mountain form of this tree, with the coastal becoming much larger at maturity. Douglas fir is an important lumber tree in the Pacific Northwest. In the East, Douglas fir is a very popular Christmas tree.
Speaking of perplexing, the Cedar Family contains 15 genera, six of which have a single member. Members of the cedar family have scale-like leaves, not pointy needles; the exception to this is the eastern red cedar, which has scale like leaves and needles. Some cedars have cones, while others have fleshy fruits. Most cedar wood is very aromatic, like the Incense cedar, Alaska Yellow cedar, Port Orford cedar, western red cedar, and eastern red cedar. Cedar wood is very rot resistant, and is often used for shingles, decking material, and siding. The northern white cedar is also known as arborvitae, or tree of life. This tree was given its name by the French, who learned how to concoct medicines from its bark to cure ailments such as scurvy. Arborvitae were exported to France, where they gained favor as an ornamental. Today, there are numerous cultivars of arborvitae grown as ornamentals. The cedar family contains a group of trees more commonly known as cypress trees that are scattered around the globe, especially in the Mediterranean Region where they provide a valuable wood resource. The Maryland native Bald Cypress is not part of this group. Go figure. The Atlantic white cedar, a tree native to the eastern part of Maryland, normally found on wetter sites, belongs to the genus Chamaecyparis, meaning “false cypress.” Atlantic white cedar are found along stream banks, in freshwater swamps, and bogs. The Atlantic white cedar has a long, but narrow distribution, extending from the coast of Maine, down to the Florida swamps. The Frederick County native eastern red cedar is actually a Juniper which produces a berry as a fruit. Junipers are slow growing trees that need plenty of sunlight, and grow in very diverse habitats, a very common component of old field communities. Junipers thrive in the limestone soils located around Walkersville and Woodsboro as Welles throughout Washington County. The slow growth, dense form, and fleshy fruit of the eastern red cedar makes it a good choice for planting for wildlife habitat, providing both winter food and cover for birds and other wildlife. Eastern red cedar is an alternate host for the fungus that produces cedar apple rust in fruit trees.
Article by FCFCDB member