Frederick Tree Walk Series
Carillon in Baker ParkFrederick City, MD
Discover Frederick’s diverse array of trees on a self-guided walking tour. Currently there are 28 trees to see and it should take about 1.5 hours. A full list and a map is available at visitFrederick.org (visitfrederick.org/things-to-do/tours/downtown-frederick-walking-tours/trees-of-frederick/). Interesting information about these specimens is provided in this series of Nature Notes.
Table of Content
0. American elm (Ulmus americana), Native
American elm (Ulmus Americana) is an astonishingly beautiful tree that has the stunning vase-like shape when mature that is indicative of elms. Our own Frederick City arborist, Tom Rippeon, is treating this and many other elms in the city to prevent Dutch elm disease, caused by the fungus that wiped out 75% of the beautiful street trees in the US between 1930 and 1989. Before that, American elms lined the avenues and boulevards of cities and neighborhoods, arching over the streets to provide tunnel-like shade and distinctive elegance. Wouldn’t that have been something beautiful to see? Foreign species that cause problems in ecosystems where they are not native are called “invasive species,” and the fungus that killed the elms was just that. The demise of the elms by the invasive fungus shows the importance of adhering to the laws and regulations designed to minimize invasive foreign species, such as never transporting plant materials and fresh fruits or vegetables from one isolated island or continent to another. Much is at stake.
1. Eastern white pine (Pinus Strobus), Native
Much to the delight of bird watchers, as well as folks strolling Culler Lake, this row of white pines (Pinus strobus) has been the nesting site for a colony of white crowned night herons for many years. They arrive here every spring and begin their noisy habitation, fishing in Culler Lake, raising their young, and otherwise entertaining the people of Frederick.
Eastern white pines are the tallest native trees in the Eastern US. When the colonists arrived on this continent, they found towering 250 foot-tall white pines. Think about that, because that’s more than three times as tall as almost every tree on the tree walk! It was a very important export for the early Americans, and we quickly harvested all these beautiful trees for export, but also to build our homes and power our industries, running everything from forges to our own lime kiln here in Frederick County.
This tree can be found at coordinates: 39°25'06.1"N 77°25'30.6"W
Nature note for 8/4/2019
2. American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), Native
The Latin name of this tree is so mellifluous, it just rolls off your tongue like honey, so don’t be afraid to try it! The species name is pronounced “Styro-Si-flua, with a short i sound. If you can reach one of its beautiful star-shaped leaves, crush it and give it a sniff—its wonderfully spicy scent is not surprising since it is in the witch hazel family, a family with potent chemicals often used medicinally. The gummy sap was used by some native peoples for its sweet smell. They mixed it with herbs, stuffed it into reeds, and then lit it like incense. The flavorful, resinous gum was also used like chewing gum. In the southern United States, it is second only to oak for its hardwood production. Look down at your feet for its seed balls. Unless it is a landscaping cultivar of sweetgum, which are bred to be sterile, you can usually find the distinctive prickly balls under a sweetgum tree year-round
3. Tulip (Liriodendron tulipfera), Native
Certainly a favorite of this tree nerd, the tulip tree has the coolest leaves in the forest, called a saddle shape by botanists. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, tulip tree acquired the common misnomer of “tulip poplar” and even “yellow poplar”, both of which are incorrect because tulip trees are botanically quite distant from the softer and weaker poplars. Tulip trees are actually in the magnolia family, which will actually be easier to believe if you look carefully at the beautiful bloom of the tulip tree, which looks very much like a magnolia blossom. These are one of our tallest native trees, reaching nearly 200 feet and they are the tallest hardwoods east of the Rockies. If you see a stand of very tall, very, very straight beautiful trees with very high crowns, it is quite likely they are tulip trees! Thomas Jefferson was especially fond of tulip trees and sent lots of seeds back to his botany friends in England.
4. River Birch (Betula nigra), Native
Desirable for its beautiful peeling bark, river birches grow well with “wet feet,” meaning in soil that has poor drainage or floods frequently. Due to the low oxygen content of soggy soil, a life with wet feet is actually more challenging to a plant than drought. Growing in this environment is also a challenge to stability, so trees of this type tend to be multi-trunked to make it less likely they will fall over in the soggy soil.
5. Weeping Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendulum’), Non-native
A lovely, non-native tree, but non-invasive tree, the katsura tree has been cultivated for years due to the 4-season interest it adds to the landscape. In the spring, its foliage emerges with a hint of purple, the summer foliage is lush and lovely and in the fall, it has a buttery yellow color and emits a subtle, brown sugar scent as you walk by. In the winter, especially for this weeping specimen, it has a lovely shape and pretty bark. According to ancient Chinese and Japanese folklore, a man on the moon was being punished and was assigned by the gods to cut down the giant katsura tree that grows there, but because of the tree’s magic, it could not be cut down, so the man on the moon is trapped there forever and the shadow of the giant tree is visible to this day as the big shadowy area on the surface!
6. Northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), Native
Did you know in North America, there are actually no native cedars? The trees we ordinarily refer to as native cedars, such as Eastern red cedar and Northern white cedar actually belong to the genus Thuja and not Cedrus, which is the official cedar genus. The only true cedars are from the Western Himalayas and the Mediterranean. We can continue to call ours cedars, but it’s good to know their true lineage. Another common name for Northern white cedars is arborvitae, which is Latin for “tree of life” and this truly is a well-deserved moniker. 16 th Century explorer Jacques Cartier learned from Native Americans to use the foliage to prevent and treat scurvy. This was an extraordinarily valuable little tid-bit, since scurvy took the lives of so many people and especially, sailors. White cedar has excellent wildlife value, too. It is estimated that 10-25% of white tailed deer diet consists of twigs and branches of white cedar and many species of birds eat its seeds. Note the beautiful peeling bark and interesting shape of this mature specimen. ‘Tis a beautiful old tree.
7. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), Non-native
Ginkgo trees have a fascinating story. Native to China and traditionally grown on Chinese and Japanese temple grounds, for many years they were unknown to the Western scientific community before the East opened up to the West. Ginkgo biloba evolved about 270 million years ago and is considered a living fossil, all its relatives being long since extinct. It’s not even a flowering plant, being more closely related to conifers such as pines, which are much more ancient than flowering plants such as grasses, roses and maples trees. Ginkgos have been used medicinally for thousands of years in Asian traditional medicine for everything from improving brain function to heart health. This home, along with all of those in the 100 block of College Terrace, was built in 1939 and the ginkgo tree was planted that same year making 2019 its 80 th birthday! When it was built, this was the very edge of the city of Frederick, with nothing beyond but farms. Baker Park did not yet exist. According to the owners, the leaves are voluminous, so they usually have to clear them with snow shovels, which is effective because the leaves are small. The leaves don't always come down at once, but if there is a super cold snap, it creates the conditions where most of the bright yellow fall leaves can fall within 24 hours. This lovely phenomenon happens occasionally but not every year.
8. Corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana), Non-native
Straight out of Lord of the Rings, the twisted and mossy trunk on this corkscrew willow makes it a stand-out along the Carroll Creek walking trail. Limbs and twigs of corkscrew willow are used in bonsai and floral arrangements. All members of the Salix genus contain some level of salicylic acid, a precursor to aspirin, which has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat pain, inflammation and fevers. Knowing the effectiveness of this treatment led to the development of aspirin. Our own North American white willow (Salix alba) contains much more of the active substance.
9. Black walnut (Juglans nigra), Native
A gorgeous giant of native trees, black walnuts are easy to spot from far away with their furrowed, black bark, and their stout twig pattern. Both these features make them easily recognized in the winter when their beautiful, black bones make a distinctive presentation. I like to call these three Baker Park trees, “The Three Sisters,” and I hope you get to see them in the winter, when I believe they are at their most beautiful.
Black walnut was often used in the Colonial Era as an indicator species. Landowners would send out scouts to see if black walnut was growing on a prospective land purchase. If it was, this would indicate the land was fertile and worth a higher purchase price. The mild-tasting walnuts you buy in the store are English walnuts unless specifically labeled black walnuts, which have a much stronger flavor.
10. Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanatum), Non-native
This unique European tree is in the buckeye family and has similar fruits to our native buckeyes—a spiny seed coat with a nut inside called a conker. At one point, these conkers were ground into a meal and fed to horses to make their coats shine or to cure horse cough, but the fruits are not edible by humans. Extract of horse chestnut is used to treat a variety of conditions, such as varicose veins and hemorrhoids, but don’t pick up the nuts and try this at home! If you see this tree in the winter, take the time to compare its architecture to that of other trees around you. Stand with your back to the creek and the horse chestnut to your right, now look left and you will see an oak along the trail. Trees with very large, simple leaves or with compound leaves, such as this horse chestnut, often have very stout twigs giving an almost witchy appearance! Trees with smaller leaves have finer twigging patterns and look more “frothy,” as the oak does. If you see this horse chestnut tree in the spring, you may have quite a treat, seeing the large, creamy white blossoms that will later make the conkers. Note the stunning palmate compound leaves—palmate because they are like fingers on the palm of a hand. There are only a handful of trees with palmate leaves.
11. Pin oak (Quercus palustris), Native
The pyramidal shape, fast growth habit and tolerance for wet or compacted soils and pollution have made the pin oak a favorite landscape tree for homes and commercial landscapes for many years. Especially in younger trees, pin oaks often have a distinctive branching pattern that makes them easy to recognize, with the branches on the lower limbs drooping distinctively downward. As the tree ages, it tends to lose these lower branches giving it a high crown and a tall, very straight central trunk that goes all the way to the tip of the tree. Pin oaks also sometimes exhibit the characteristic of “marcescence”, which means they tend to retain their leaves all winter until the new growth finally pushes the old leaves off in the spring. Luck of the draw—this specimen is exhibiting neither of these characteristics. Nature’s variety!
12. London plane (latanus X acerifolia), Non-native
Most people who know a bit about trees would identify this as a sycamore tree, not realizing it is a sycamore hybrid very commonly planted in urban environments all over the world because of its tolerance for atmospheric pollution and compacted soil. A London plane tree is a hybrid between a native sycamore and an Asian plane tree. Many of our downtown trees that look like sycamores are actually London planes. To tell the difference, observe the leaves, bark and seed balls. The leaves of London planes are more deeply lobed and shiny on top than native sycamores. Also, look at the sycamore ball, which contains the seeds. In a native sycamore tree, each ball has its own stem, but in the London plane, many of the seed balls have two hanging along a single stem like beads on a string. Sycamore trees also typically have bright white bark at the top and London plane trees have a color more creamy or grayish. These trees are extraordinarily long-lived and grow to enormous sizes, the largest in Europe being close to 36 feet in circumference and well over 200 years old. The largest specimen in the US is in the Grotto of the University of Notre Dame in Southbend, Indiana at about 19 feet around so it would take four people holding hands to hug that tree! Just give Frederick’s London plane trees some time… Photo: Bethany Dellagnello
13. Weeping willow (Salix babylonica), Native
Although Weeping willow is likely a hybrid of the babylonica species, it is typically referred to by this species name. These iconic trees are native to China, and were originally spread to the Western world via the Silk Road in the Eighteenth Century. Weeping willows grow very fast, but are not very long-lived, rarely living past their 75th birthday, which is quite young for most tree species. Like all willows, weeping willow bark contains salicylic acid, which is the precursor to aspirin, and has been used for centuries to relieve fevers and pain. Our own North American white willow (Salix alba) contains much more of the active substance, but weeping willow works in a pinch. However, don’t start chewing off the bark and trying this at home, as splinters in the gums can be quite unpleasant.
14. Weeping american beech (Fagus sylvatica), Non-native
Weeping American beech does not grow quite as enormous as our native American beech, which is beloved for its lovely fall copper foliage and its smooth, elephantine bark, this cultivar was created in England in 1836. It has a lovely, weeping habit that produces such dense vegetation that one often can’t see the trunk of the tree in summer. In winter, they look almost dinosaur-like with their twisted trunks and limbs. Like all beeches, they often reproduce vegetatively when their roots send up shoots some distance from the trunk to produce new trees; but because of the weeping habit, these cultivars can also do so when their limbs root to the ground anywhere they are touching. If you are of a certain age, you may recall Beechnut gum, which was actually a trademark name, and the gum was NOT flavored with the triangular nutlets the tree produces. However, beechnuts ARE much favored by the local, non-gum-chewing wildlife and are a critically important forest food source.
15. American basswood (Tilia Americana), Native
Basswoods, aka linden trees, aka lime trees (in England, which can be very confusing for tourists) are also nicknamed “bee trees,” because when they are covered with their distinctive blooms in the spring, they are so attractive to pollinators they can be heard buzzing from a hundred yards away. If you can’t hear the bees, you can smell the linden tree flowers’ honey-lemon scent from close to a mile away! Once you take note of their unusual and interesting blooms, you will learn to recognize all the varieties of linden trees easily, as they retain remnants of these blooms throughout the season, and they can be seen from far away once you know what you are looking for.
Cousins of the American basswood, little-leaf linden trees are very common street trees, because they are quite happy in the sidewalk and parking lot wells. Costco here in Frederick has used little-leaf trees as its primary parking lot tree; there are many on Key Parkway; and they have also been spotted near Kohls.
This tree can be found at coordinates: 39°25'00.4"N 77°25'01.7"W
Nature note for 8/18/2019
16. Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), Native
It’s easy to learn to identify this interesting native tree, which is in the Cannabaceae family along with hemp and hops. Just take a look at the bark, especially the young bark, which is bark higher up on any tree. Note the corky protuberances that are unique to this tree. Some people say it looks like pie crust that’s been thrown against the trunk and has stuck in random patterns. The berries of this tree are a favorite of birds, but not so palatable for humans. Its species name, occidentalis, means Western. This is a very hardy and common tree, not often planted for landscaping so it’s pretty cool to see such a impressive specimen here in Baker Park. It is sad that this tree probably won’t be around much longer--note the fungus that seems to be killing it, which is quite evident at the base of the tree on the tennis court side.
17. White oak (Quercus alba), Native
One of our most common and most beautiful native trees, the white oak provides critical food sources and habitat for many native animal species. Not only that, but it’s also economically important for everything from furniture and flooring to bourbon barrels. Once mature, its graceful but stocky form is striking in its almost witchy appearance, the type of natural beauty inspiring for artists and poets alike. Look up at into the crown of this white oak and you’ll see where it gets its name—the whitish gray bark is much lighter than that of most trees. Notice how the bark flakes vertically as you go high up into the crown, looking almost “platy”. People often confuse mature white oaks with shagbark hickory, which also flakes, but does so horizontally, giving it an even shaggier appearance all the way up and down the tree trunk. White oak acorns are sweeter to than red oak acorns and preferred by wildlife, but for humans, you must go through a leaching process before eating any acorns. The Native Americans knew how to safely use white oak acorns and they were a very important food source.
18. White ash (Fraxinus americana), Native
Ash trees are one of our native forest trees and have been favorites for landscaping for many years because of their stunning architecture, beautiful foliage and interesting bark. However, they are the victims of an invasive pest called the emerald ash bore, which has ravaged the population of ash trees here and everywhere. A beautiful, emerald green beetle kept under control by predators of its own in its home range of Asia, here in North America it was unknown until 2002. This means our local ecosystems had nothing in place to prevent the bore from eating its way across the country, killing nearly all our ash trees. This one before you and more than 500 other ashes in Frederick are being treated by our Frederick county arborist, Tom Rippeon. Note the distinctive bark with its diamond shapes and its large, compound leaves with blueish-white undersides (giving it the name white ash), each one reaching up to a foot long!
19. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), Non-native
Ginkgo trees are incredibly unique trees with a fascinating story, as the other entry for this species discusses (College Terrace). This particular tree is a former National Champion tree, being the largest specimen in North America identified at the time. Authorities have since found a bigger tree, but it remains the Frederick County Champion! See it on the mdbigtrees.com website. This home is called the Hannah House and was built in 1750. Having an extra lot next to a home is very unusual in downtown Frederick, but it provided a perfect spot for one of the early owners to plant this historic ginkgo. One of the early owners of Hannah House was Dr. Hedges, who drove around Frederick in his horse and buggy caring for the locals. His wife would keep his food warm in the radiator that had a little door in it, which was a clever, unusual and therefore, well-known feature of this house. The home was then owned by the Etchison family (of Etchison’s Funeral Home) and their daughter, Hannah, was a much-loved teacher at TJ High School. The home is named for her.
20. Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandifolia), Native
The species name of this distinctive Southern species, grandifolia, means large leaf and you can see why! Evolving 120 million years ago, it is the oldest of all known flowering plants. This evergreen beauty has lush, creamy white and sweet-smelling blooms that appear sporadically throughout the summer, instead of one bloom period like most species. A long-lived species in The South, it is rare to find a very old specimen this far north but there was a very famous 200-year-old tree on the White House grounds that was sadly cut down in 2017 due to poor health. At one time, this particular iconic, White House tree was featured on the twenty-dollar bill!
21. Dogwood (Cornus florida), Native,
& Weeping cherry (Prunus pendula), Non-native
Most of us are familiar with the charming little dogwood tree, rarely reaching a height of greater than 25 feet, and sporting its unique beauty in all seasons. The first tree in this line of three is a dogwood. The moniker, “dogwood,” is derived from its original name, dagwood, so-named because the slender twigs and branches were often used for daggers and skewers. Its inner bark was used by some Native Americans in sacred pipes, and its blooming was a sign it was time to plant corn. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were hugely fond of this native tree, and planted them on their estates, not only because of their beautiful spring blooms, but also because later in the summer, the berries provide food for wildlife, and the leaves host many species of butterflies and moths. Year-round, its interesting bark is distinctive, and adds winter interest to the landscape. Many towns host spring dogwood festivals where you can take a leisurely drive, just drinking in the beauty of this easy-to-grow native tree.
The tree in the center of this row of three ornamental beauties is a weeping cherry tree. Like all cherry trees, the weeping cherry is in the Prunus genus, which is part of the rose family! Any plant in the rose family is easily recognizable by its blossoms, which usually have five petals and many, many stamens with fat yellow anthers. Looking like a furry donut in the center of these flowers, these stamens are the male flower part and the swellings on the ends of the “hairs” are the anthers, where pollen is produced. Other members of the rose family include blackberries and their kin, apple, plum, pear, almond and peach trees, strawberries and also common “weeds” like cinquefoil.
This tree can be found at coordinates: 39°24'59.3"N 77°24'34.1"W
Nature note for
22. White ash (Fraxinus americana), Native
Drink in the beauty of this lovely native tree because in ten years, ash trees will be a rare sight indeed as only specimens being given a regular dose of a chemical treatment will still be alive in North America. Our lovely ash trees are the victims of an invasive pest called the emerald ash bore, which has ravaged the population of ash. This one before you and more than 500 other ashes in Frederick are being treated by our Frederick county arborist, Tom Rippeon. Ashes are dioecious trees, meaning there are male trees and female trees. Many other trees and plants produce both male and female flowers on the same tree but ash trees are like the familiar holly—you need two to tango. Note the clusters of dried flowers clinging to the limbs, if present (you can see them in the photo, as well.)
These pom-pom-like clusters reveal that this is a male ash tree because the female trees have the elongated seeds, instead. Note that the underside of these lush leaves is whitish, giving the white ash its common name. If you see this tree in the winter, take note of its opposite branching pattern, which shows its membership in the exclusive MAB-DOG tree club: Only Maple, Ash, Buckeye and Dogwood trees have opposite branching, all other trees have alternate branching. Since buckeye is pretty rare, dogwoods are pretty small and ashes are soon to be rare, most large trees you encounter with opposite branching will be some type of maple. As you continue on your walk, compare the branching pattern of other trees and you’ll see that most are alternate. The opposite branching can be seen in the photo here, as well.
This tree can be found at coordinates: 39.4165,-77.407639
Nature note for
23. Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata), Non-native
Once you learn to identify zelkova trees, you will begin to see them everywhere! They are very popular commercial landscape trees, lining streets, parking lots and other public areas because of their lovely shape, resistance to pests and their fast growth rate. The distinctive, vase shape and peeling bark that reveals orange under-bark makes them recognizable in all seasons so observe in this specimen how the very straight, main branches arise from the central trunk in a distinctive upward pattern, barely angled off the parallel to the trunk. No other tree looks like this and it is especially obvious in the winter when the bones of any tree are revealed. Japanese zelkova has many of the positive attributes of Bradford pears without the tendency to become invasive nor the weak wood, both making Bradfords such ecological and landscaping nightmares. Zelkova trees are closely related to elm trees but without the susceptibility to Dutch elm disease.
24. Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana), Non-native
Bradford pear trees have fallen out of favor over the past 20 years, and for very good reason. With their beautiful, rounded and symmetrical shape, resistance to many diseases, and tolerance to environmental challenges, they were the trees of choice for landscaping, beginning in the 1960’s when they were introduced to the United States by the USDA facility in Glendale, Maryland. Now we know these very same characteristics make them highly invasive in wild areas where they crowd out native species just about anywhere the seeds land. After a hard frost, the little concrete-hard pears become soft and tasty to birds, so they are easily spread in bird droppings. If you drive down Interstate 70 between here and Baltimore in mid-April, you can see the blanket of white blossoms all along they way. While you may think this is pretty, it makes nature buffs very sad to know how many native species are being smothered by all this growth, depriving native animal species of their specific natural food, nesting, and host species. As if that weren’t bad enough, the fast growth habit also makes these trees weak, so they are often damaged by storms and wind, so homeowners must go through the costly process of having them removed and replaced.
25. Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), Non-native
Like its cousin, hackberry, the sugarberry tree is in the Cannabaceae family, along with hops and hemp. Unlike the hackberry, though, the sugarberries are sweet enough to be palatable to humans and native tribes sometimes mixed them with bear fat and nuts to make something equivalent to trail mix. Look down at your feet and note there is very little else growing around this tree. This is because it makes “alleopathic” chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plant life, just as black walnut, forsythia and azaleas do. It is unusual to find a sugarberry tree this far north, much less one of this size and health, so there must be a magical combination of conditions occurring in this particular spot. This tree is the state champion sugarberry tree of Maryland—check it out on the mdbigtrees.com website!
26. Dogwood (Cornus florida), Native
If one would like to plant a dependable native tree with a modest size that won’t dominate your landscape and one that looks beautiful in all seasons, you can’t go wrong with a common dogwood tree. They start with a stunning show of beautiful blooms in early spring, followed by lush foliage in the summer, deep red fall color and their distinctive alligator skin bark in the winter. Their “petals” aren’t actually petals at all, but bright white bracts that will draw a pollinator’s attention to the smaller yellow blooms in their center. The pollinated flowers produce red drupes that are an important source of food for wildlife. The dogwood tree has significance for Christianity as it is purported that the cross upon which Christ was crucified was constructed of dogwood. Additionally, the four white bracts are in a cross-shape and it blooms around Easter in some years, giving the dogwood tree additional significance to Christians. Unfortunately, dogwoods are not long-lived trees, living only an average of 30 years, but once the main trunk dies, they often sprout a ring of suckers that make quite a showing as well. Under ideal conditions, they occasionally live much longer, up to 80 years!
27. Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthose), Native
The native form of this beautiful and almost tropical-looking tree has exotic clusters of giant thorns on its trunk and limbs. These thorns can be up to eight inches long sometimes and iron-hard so they were probably excellent protection from Pleistocene megafauna such as the giant ground sloth that roamed North American millions of years ago. As a matter of fact, these thorns were used by people in the past as pins and by early carpenters as nails! However, the trees here in Shab Row have no thorns, as is true for nearly all the honey locust trees you will find planted in the pavement wells of parking lots and in parks. That’s because we have developed thornless cultivars that are more practical for urban landscapes. They are very hardy and resistant to environmental stress such as salt and pollution, so they make excellent landscape trees in malls, parks and street wells. Note the dark bark that is smooth when young and then has curling plates as the tree ages. The seed pods look like giant, flat beans (honey locust trees are in the legume family) and are pendulant and curling. The pods contain the seeds and are also filled with a sweet pulp that gives these trees their name—honey locust! These characteristics make them attractive to wildlife, upon which the species depends to open the pods and spread the seeds. They also make good fodder for livestock, but people have enjoyed this sweet pulp for centuries for both traditional medicine and food.
This series of Nature Notes has been developed by Bethany Dell'Angello, FCFCDB Member