Name the tree

I posted this picture of the trunk of a tree growing near where I’m staying. Readers demanded to see the leaves before a definitive ID, with one surmising that it might be an aspen. Here’s the trunk:

And here are the leaves  catkins (no leaves yet). Anybody know? I await the correct answer.

53 Comments

  1. fkbarker
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Aspen. The green bits are catkins, which emerge before the leaves. Sex before photosynthesis!

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      One Adam Twelve, One Adam Twelve, see the tree demanding sex before photosynthesis on the corner of Calisto and Margarita.

    • glen1davidson
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      There’s enough green in the catkins for significant photosynthesis, yet with no leaves getting in the way of pollen travel. But leaves will pay the price of seed development once that gets going in earnest.

      Glen Davidson

    • Posted April 23, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      aspen for sure; but which one? Probably quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides).

  2. Ann German
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    They could be aspen catkins . . . I couldn’t figure out how to paste a photo I found on the internet of them . . . google “aspen catkins” for some pics.

    • alexandra Moffat
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      The photo I found appears to prove that you are correct. Yes, I don’t know how to forward the pictures to this site. Google has many…
      Thanks

    • Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Yes, seed pods of aspen:
      http://www.treenm.com/nm-tree-species/quaking-aspen/

      Took me a while to figure it out, as I thought the ‘leaves’ looked like larch needles.

  3. glen1davidson
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Here’s catkins ID’d as aspen:

    http://www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org/pages/plants/aspen_quaking.html

    Very consistent with aspen, but not anything that would definitively ID it. The branches look like aspen, for what it’s worth.

    I’d certainly go with aspen.

    Glen Davidson

    • glen1davidson
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      I’ll try again to get an actual picture here:

  4. Elizabeth Belyavin
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I think it may be an Aspen. There are a few leaves showing, a bit out of focus at about 1/3 along x axis and about 1/3 up y axis but most of what you see are catkins. Think the catkins are mostly male flowers.

  5. netbuoy
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    aspen. here’s a discussion of the difference appearance of birch and aspen: http://jakesnatureblog.com/2017/02/06/birch-tree-aspen-tree/ Although aspen usually have a greenish tinge, they can get very white as in the photo.

    • jaxkayaker
      Posted April 22, 2018 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      Thanks for this. My first thought was birch, but from photos. I’m not familiar with either first-hand.

  6. Wayne Y Hoskisson
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    These look like the flowering bodies of the aspen. Later these will have a fluffy white and sticky catkin. The leaves are not yet out. You can see the buds that will eventually be leaves on the twigs.

    Until recently it was unknown whether or not aspens sprouted from seeds but it was documented a few years ago. Since they are clonal and sprout ramets from the root system to create new “trees” some thought they may not reproduce from seed.

    Sometimes the two white birches (one is an imported species)found in No America can resemble aspen but the bark is papery and strips away from the under layer. The native paper birch, Betula papyrifera, does not occur naturally as far south as NM. Birches also produce cones and do not have catkins.

    Did you find the tree as an isolated plant or was it surrounded by similar trees?

    • Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Isolated: planted as an ornamental outside a business.

      • Wayne Y Hoskisson
        Posted April 21, 2018 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        I think it is still most likely an aspen. Leaves would help to be certain. They can be purchased in nurseries and would fare well at 7,000 feet in NM. I live in SE Utah and we have trouble growing them at 4,000 feet but from my home I can see luxuriant aspen forests growing in the mountains above town.

        Great web site. I own and have read WEIT and Faith vs Fact.

        • Posted April 21, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

          Southeast Utah, where there really is a town called Mexican Hat! 🙂

          • Wayne Y Hoskisson
            Posted April 21, 2018 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

            I live in Moab, about 120 miles mostly north of Mexican Hat, named after a stone formation called Mexican Hat. Supposedly it looks like a wide brimmed Mexican sombrero resting upside down on a stone pedestal. The town of Mexican Hat was known as Goodridge until about 1938. Royal Robbins and Jack Turner were the first to climb the brim of Mexican Hat, the rock, in 1962.

            • rickflick
              Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

              I visited Moab mainly to see Arches National Park, which is a must-see, high on the bucket list, place. I envy you.

              I didn’t know any people lived there. 😉

  7. Leo Glenn
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Yes, It’s a Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). The “eye” phenomenon is well known. https://fireflyforest.net/firefly/2005/10/27/aspen-eyes/

  8. Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Well, this just shows my ignorance of botany. I thought those were some weird leaves of an imported tree, but they’re bloody CATKINS. I am embarrassed. I guess it’s an aspen.

    • glen1davidson
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      At first I was thinking, what, larch, tamarack? But they don’t have white bark.

      The catkins do look a bit like weird needles.

      Glen Davidson

    • Posted April 23, 2018 at 4:44 am | Permalink

      What species??? aspen can be used for a number of different species…

      • Posted April 23, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        Most likely: Populus tremuloides.

  9. Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I read in a novel that a grove of aspen trees have a common root system. In effect, they are all one tree. True?

    • jellen
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Hoskisson’s note came up while I was writing: aspens are clonal. Thank you. I understand that, in contrast, oak and maple trees’ separate root systems intermingle, a factor in the contagion of oak and maple wilt, caused by fungi(Ceratocystis fagacearum and verticillium respectively).

    • Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      True. One often sees a whole hillside that changes to the same color at the same time because it is basically one giant organism.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      From personal experience, they do spread vegetatively. How much vs. from seed probably depends on the individual site.

    • Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      If you drive through the high country in Colorado, there are some wide open vistas of stands of aspen groves, and because they are clonal, they are circular. Nice examples in South Park, near Fairplay.

    • Posted April 21, 2018 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but. Aspens are clonal. A stand of aspens may all be one clone. However, genetic testing of different trees reveals that A single stand may have two or more clones. Sometimes several different clones.

    • Posted April 21, 2018 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      There are individual aspens that cover several acres and are >80,000 years old!!!!!! They are the oldest living things on the planet.

      • lkr
        Posted April 21, 2018 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        That means these clones were nourishing mastodons long past middle age. O tempora O elephanti…

        • lkr
          Posted April 21, 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          …and ground sloths, the extinction of which I particularly regret

  10. glen1davidson
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Aspens are usually the gorgeous yellow fall foliage that you see mixed in with evergreens. Like this:

    Aspens fix nitrogen (symbiotically with bacteria), like other willow family memebers do. That’s one reason you see them growing in poor soils.

    Glen Davidson

    • Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Note at upper left an L shaped region of greenish yellow curved around a more orange patch. Probably two clones.

    • Rik Smith
      Posted April 22, 2018 at 12:30 am | Permalink

      Sorry Glen, Aspen don’t fix nitrogen. There are a number of non-leguminous N-fixers, called the Actinorhizal Plants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actinorhizal_plant) but none are in the willow family (Salicaceae). The closest might be the alders that are in the birch family (Betulaceae).

      • glen1davidson
        Posted April 22, 2018 at 1:09 am | Permalink

        Well, there’s pretty good evidence for N2 -fixation in Salicaceae. That they are not Actinorhizal does not mean that they don’t fix nitrogen, and it appears that Salicaceae fix nitrogen differently.

        Glen Davidson

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Aspen

    I know – but yeah. Aspen…. I think.

    They do different things depending on what they did the previous year.

  12. mirandaga
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Almost certainly an aspen. But besides looking at it, you might try listening to it, as per A. E. Housman’s lovely lines:

    And overhead the aspen heaves
    It’s rainy-sounding silver leaves.

  13. Diane Garlick
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    sub

  14. Tim Hanrahan
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Those eyes.. I think it’s the illuminatree.

  15. Chris
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Leaves?! Those are flowers, aren’t they. The leaves appear to be about to unfurl from all those buds. Aside from that, I haven’t a clue. Paper birch?

  16. Posted April 21, 2018 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    “James”

  17. Someone
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 4:22 am | Permalink

    One could say it is an “eye tree” but, indeed, it is an “eye four”.

  18. John Taylor
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Trembling Aspen

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted April 22, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      Ah

      I’ve heard it “quaking aspen”

      Then there’s the “tremuloides” part of its binomial name.

      • Posted April 23, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        Yes, quaking aspen in the USA

  19. jaxkayaker
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    All these tree names remind me of Monty Python’s Lumberjack Song.

  20. David Coxill
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Misunderstood ,i was going to say name it Percy .

  21. drew
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Well, my first thought was a white birch.

    Many have said that they think the structures are Catkins but I think they’re actually white birch flowers (It’s difficult to make a definitive call however). And the trunk is spot on.

  22. Posted April 23, 2018 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    PLEASE WEIT people – use the latin – Populus tremuloides!?? Populus tremula???

    Just saying ‘aspen’ is hopeless as there are many species…

    That is why we have binomials, to avoid confusion.
    https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/TechSheets/HardwoodNA/pdf_files/popaspeneng.pdf

    • Posted April 23, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      And popular names for things do vary from location to location, too.

      A decision “tree” for naming trees would be neat. 🙂


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