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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mystery Tree- It's No Ash

My Quality Day bannerSomething has been bugging me. A lot. A year ago, I called this tree an ash, because I couldn't think of what else it could be. You've seen this tree before. Not only was it last year's fall banner ad, but I did a whole post about it, Ash- Left and Right Brained.

However, I've always known that the shape of the tree wasn't right, and the leaves just didn't seem to hang right either. Here's the whole, honkin' tree!


I'm sure you are asking, "Why don't you just go look at it, closer?" That answer is easy, but a little silly. It's not on our property, and I'm not too eager to run into that neighbor. But today, I decided to check it out. The "bugging" factor got too large.

Once I got close, it became obvious, really obvious, that it's a cherry tree. After that initial, general ID, it gets really mysterious. At that size, in this part of the country, it should be a wild black cherry. However... The picture below shows black cherry bark on the left, and this tree on the right.


Big difference! That "black potato chip" bark is a hallmark of Prunus serotina, the black cherry. This bark looks more like an ash tree, which is how I made that long distance ID.

Now, I have cherry leaves, cherry bark on the small twigs, an almond smell when the twigs are broken from the cyanide produced by cherries, and ash bark. What the hey?

I stopped by our black cherry tree and gathered some leaves from that one too. The picture below is the black cherry leaf on the left, and the mystery leaf on the right


First of all, the shape eliminates Pin Cherry, which has long narrow leaves.

You might think they look alike, but look again. The one on the right (the mystery) is obovate- that means it's widest above the middle. It could be Choke Cherry, but I've never seen one get bigger than a shrub, and even the books say it never gets taller than 20 feet. The other choice for obovate is the commercial Sweet Cherry. Again, I've never seen one this large, because orchard keepers replace them when the fruit production falls off.

This tree isn't going to give any clues with fruit. I've never seen it bloom- another reason I never thought of cherry.

Some tree species hybridize freely. Cherry isn't one of the promiscuous ones, but it could be possible.

At any rate, it's definitely CHERRY. I better go correct that older post!

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Glynis Peters said...

A mystery indeed. Look out for the fruit and all will be revealed. :)

wiseacre said...

ah, I missed you barking up the wrong tree on the original post.

Unknown said...

Ah well, we can't all be right all of the time. Well done for noting your mistake and good luck with more detective work.

Ann said...

I've always loved a good mystery. I'll be interested to hear what other information you come up with on this tree

betchai said...

you are so good in solving a mystery Sharkbytes.

Casey said...

I think it's an ash. Don't mean to contradict you, but usually the bark doesn't lie, where the leaves can be misleading. The absence of fruit is weird, too. If I were you, I would check back in the late spring to see if there are samaras (winged fruit) hanging from it.

Take care!

RNSANE said...

You have a little bit of the foresnic scientist about you, Joan. I guess you could collect DNA and solve it all, if you know someone to run the specimen!

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