Harriet L. (Harriet Louise) Keeler.

Our northern shrubs and how to identify them; a handbook for the nature-lover online

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Myrica caroUm^tisis. Merica cerifera.

Myrica, the ancient name of an unknown shrub.

Stiff, crooked, growing in miniature thickets ; found in every
variety of situation and soil ; from dry, rocky hills to sandy
plains, from the border of marshes to the edge of the sea-shore ;
varies from three to eight feet in height. Ranges near the coast
from Nova Scotia to Florida and Alabama; sparingly found on
the borders of the Great Lakes.

Bark. — Brownish gray, dark and pale irregularly mixed ;
young stems golden brown, somewhat hairy and covered with
resinous dots. Leaf buds minute, globular, reddish brown.

Leaves. — Alternate, or irregularly scattered or tufted, simple,
two to three and one-half inches long, obovate or oblong, nar-
rowed at the base, entire, or with three or four serrate teetli near
the apex which bears a tiny point at the end. They come out
of the bud revolute, ])ale green tinged with red, shining, covered
with white woolly hairs, thickly covered with pale amber resi-
nous dots ; appear rather late ; when full grown are leathery,
shining, bright green, resinous, dotted on both sides, fragrant.
In autumn they darken to a bronze purple or fall with little
change of color.

Floivers. — May. Dicecious, individual flowers without calyx
or corolla, solitary on a scale-like bract. Staminate flowers ex-
pand with the leaves, borne in stiff, erect catkins less than an
inch long, on last year's wood ; scales roundish, loose ; stamens



Bayberry, Mjn'ca caroliuc-nsn

Leaves 2' to 3}^' long.


three to four ; anthers divided. Pistillate catkins small, erect ;
scales oval, pointed ; ovary bearing two awl-shaped stigmas.

Fruit. — Dry, waxy berries or drupes, one-eighth of an inch in
diameter, borne in clusters of four to nine, on short stalks. At
first green, then blackish, finally pale gray, almost white, con-
sisting of a stone coated with dry wax which has a slightly aro-
matic taste. They persist for two or three years.

At the mouths of their rivers, and all along upon the sea, and near
many of their creeks and swamps, the myrtle grows, bearing a berry of
which they make a hard, brittle wax of a curious green color, which by re-
fining becomes almost transparent. Of this they make candles, which are
never greasy to the touch and do not melt with lying in the hottest weather ;
neither does the snuff of these ever offend the sense like that of a tallow
candle, but instead of being disagreeable if an accident puts the candle out,
it yields a pleasant fragrance to all who are in the room, insomuch that nice
people often put them out on purpose to have the incense of the expiring

— Robert Beverly in " History of Virginia."

This little shrub when planted along the shore withstands the ocean
winds and storms perhaps better than any other plant known in cultivation,
and can be made to do good service in establishing plantations by the sea
side. It is now coming largely into use for that purpose, as it affords
protection to more attractive specimens which may be planted to leeward.
Beginning with a hedge of these Myricas, plantations may often be estab-
lished where without something of this nature the task would be hopeless.
Almost any bleak and barren exposure can be covered in this way and be-
come comparatively beautiful.

— Lucius D. Davis in "Ornamental Shrubs."

The fruit, leaves, and recent shoots of the Bayberry
are fragrant with a balsamic odor which comes from
the minute, transparent, resinous dots with which the
recent shoots and under surface of the leaves are pro-
fusely covered,

Bayberry wax is obtained by boiling- the berries in
waten The wax dissolves, rises to the surface and
hardens on cooling:; it is estimated that about one-
third of the weight of the berries consists of wax. In



the early days o[ the settlement of this country this
wax had a commercial value.

In the renaming of plants according to the rules of
the American Association of Science, the Bayberry
has lost its specific name of cerifcra and gained that of
carolincnsis ; cerifcra is now given to a southern tree,
the Wax Myrtle.


Comptbnia percgrina. Myrica asplenifblia,

Compfonia, in honor of Rev. Henry Compton, bishop of

Fragrant, round-headed, about two feet high, growing on
hillsides and in the openings of woods. Ranges from New
Brunswick to the Saskatchewan, occurs abundantly throughout
New England and the Middle States and on the Appalachian
range. Roots long, creeping ; suckers freely.

Bark. — Young stems green or yellowish or reddish l)rown and
sprinkled with tiny resinous dots ; the older stems yellowish
brown with shining surface, somewhat hairy ; oldest are reddish
purple or coppery brown.

IVinfcr buds. — Leaf buds minute, globular, hairy. Pistillate
aments crowded at the summit of the stems, stiff, erect, one-
fourth of an inch long, cylindrical, pale brown, hairy.

Leaves. — Alternate, simple, fragrant, three to six inches long,
less than an inch wide, pointed, cut into obtuse or j^ointed lobes
by sinuses reaching to the midrib, margin of these lobes entire,
somewhat reflexed. They come out of the bud conduplicate,
l)ale green ; when full grown they are dark lustrous green ; mid-
rib depressed above, i)rominently ridged and ])ubescent beneath,
secondary veins small ])ut also ridged. IVtiolcs short; stipules
half an inch long, auriculate or half heart-shaped, often with
a pair of smaller stipules below. I, caves, jictiolcs and stii)ules
densely sprinkled with minute, yellow shining resinous dots.



Flowers. — April, May. Dioecious, often monoecious ; the in-
dividual flower without calyx or corolla, solitary under a scale-
like bract. Staminate catkins one-half an inch long, borne at the
end of the branch. Scales kidney or heart-shaped with long
]:)oint. Pistillate catkins globular, and bur-like. Ovary one-
celled, surrounded by eight long awl-shaped persistent scales.
Stamens two to eight; filaments somewhat united below ; an-
thers two-celled.

Fruit. — Nut, ovoid-oblong, smooth, shining, surrounded by
bristly scales. September.

This is a plant that looks like a fern and i^rows like
a bush ; fragrant even when flowerless. An inhabitant
of the north, it goes south by way of the mountain
tops. The pleasant spicy fragrance which it diffuses
is due to the vast number of minute grains of resin
which are profusely sprinkled over leaf and stem.

The long slender pinnatilid leaf certainly suggests a
fern ; so that the common name seems significant and
appropriate. The foliage is ver}^ attractive ; the plant
thrives in sterile soils, flourishes at the seaside, and
is certainly worthy of cultivation.



Sweet Fern. Comptoiiij f^ircgriiu.

Leaves }' to o' long.



Castanea pumila.

From Castanea, a town in Thessaly, or from another town
of that name in Pontus ; the ancient name of the genus.

A shrub, rarely a tree, growing in dry soil. Ranges from New
Jersey to Florida, from Pennsylvania to Texas.

Leaves. — Alternate, simple, pinnately veined, veins very prom-
inent beneath, three to six inches long, wedge-shaped at base,
sharply serrate, acute at apex. They come out of the bud pale
green, shining and woolly; when full grown are dark green and
smooth above, densely white tomentose beneath. In autumn
they turn a bright, clear yellow. Petioles short, stout, slightly
angled. Stipules fugitive.

Flowers. — June, July : monoecious, fragrant. Staminate
catkins erect or somewhat spreading, three to five inches long,
about a quarter of an inch in diameter. Pistillate flowers are
borne in prickly involucres at the base of the staminate catkins.

Fniif. — Nut small, ovoid, brown, enclosed in a prickly pointed
bur. Kernel sweet.

The Chinquapin is a bush that in its best estate is
twelve feet high, although it fruits at three. The leaves
are of the chestnut type, sometimes six inches long,
and underneath are densely covered with cream-white
woolly hairs.

The burs are small, about an inch in diameter, some-



Chinquapin, Castji/cj pmniLi.

Leaves y to 0' long.


times less ; the size varyini^ with the number of en-
closed nuts, which frequentl}^ are two, though normally
one. In fruiting- this chestnut apparently makes up in
number what it lacks in size ; it is more prolific branch
for branch than our common chestnut Castanca den-
tata. The plant is southern ; it crosses the border
in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but its chosen home
is upon the slopes of the southern Alleghanies.




Cory his ajnericana.

The husk of the hazel resembles a cap ; whence its English
name from the Saxon hacslc, a cap ; its botanic name from
the Greek, corys, a helmet.

Three to six feet high, growing in clumps and thickets in dry
or moist light soil at the edge of woods or beside walls. Ranges
from Maine and Ontario, south to Florida and Kansas. Suckers

Stems. Young shoots russet-brown, densely hispid-pubescent

with pinkish hairs, the twig finally becoming smooth ; stem
dark brown.

Leaves. — Alternate, simple, pinnately veined, three to six
inches long, ovate or broadly oval, heart-shaped or rounded at
base, irregularly and somewhat doubly serrate, acute or acumi-
nate at apex. When full grown are dark yellow green, nearly
smooth above, pale green and finely tomentose beneath. In au-
tumn they turn a dull yellow. Petioles short, terete, glandular-
hairy. Stipules large, acute, toothed, fugitive.

Flowers. — March, April, before the leaves ; monoecious.
Staminate aments borne in the axils of last year's leaves along
the stem toward the end ; w^hen mature are slender, cylin-
drical, tremulous catkins, three to four inches long, terminal or
dependent from lateral foot stalks, solitary or rarely clustered.
The flowers, solitary in the axil of each bract, consist of four
stamens and two bractlets ; filaments are two-cleft, each fork
bearing an anther-sac. Pistillate flowers are little star-like tufts
of crimson stigmas, projecting above a short scaly bud of many



Hazel-nut, Cotylus ameruai,a.

Leaves 3' to b' long.


Hazel-nut. CorylKs avhttcjjia.
Catkins 3' to 4' long.


scales ; the outer scales broad and edged with hair, the inner lan-
ceolate hairy and fleshy. Ovary incompletely two-celled, adnate
to the calyx ; style short, stigmas two, threadlike. These inner
scales increase in size with the nut and become the husk, or in-

Fruit. — Nut, ovoid, or oblong, about half an inch high,
slightly flattened ; pale brown, roughish at base where it adheres
to the involucre. Involucre compressed, composed of two nearly
distinct, downy, leaf-like bractlets, fringed on their margins, com-
monly broader than high, more or less exceeding the nut, becom-
ing grayish brown when mature. Kernel sweet. July, August.

The Hazel-nut responds to the first smile of spring

in the same way as the alders. The staminate catkins

hang stiff and rigid throughout the

winter, but they relax as soon as

-^5^^*!,^ warmth comes, develop their pollen,

vr^iiir>^ fling it upon the wind and fade away.

The fruit of the American Hazel

resembles the filbert of commerce; in

flavor it is fully equal, many^ consider

it superior. Certainly the size and

quality^ of the nut is such, that were

it worth while, by careful cultivation,

and by judicious selection of seedlings,

a race of fruit-bearing hazels could

be produced whose product would

equal if it did not surpass that of the

European species. But as it is, our

hazel-nuts comfort the squirrels, who

gallantly resent intrusion upon their

preserves, and delight the children who

wish to go nutting. Possibly^ this wild

service is sufificient ; who shall say that it is not ?

The name of this bush has always expressed the feel


Winter Branch of
American Hazel-nut.
Catkins scattered
along the branch, as
well as grouped at
the end.


Beaked Hazel-nut, Coiyliis rostrata.

Leaves 2' to 4' long.


ing- that the fruit wears a hehnet. That which finally
forms this leafy helmet or involucre around the nut,
exists around the young ovary as a little girdle of two
tiny scales with fringed mai'gins.


Coryliis rostrata.

Two to six feet high, growing in clumps and in thickets.
Ranges from Nova Scotia to British Columhia, south to Georgia
and Tennessee, west to Kansas and Oregon. Suckers freely.

Stems. — Recent shoots yellowish brown, densely hairy or
smooth ; older branches darker brown and rough, stems dark

Leaves. — Alternate, simple, pinnately veined, veins depressed
above, very prominent beneath, two to four inches long, ovate,
oblong-ovate, or obovate, heart-shaped or rounded at base, irreg-
ularly and somewhat doubly serrate, acute or acuminate at apex.
When full grown are bright green, hairy or smooth above, paler
and sparingly hairy or very downy below. In autumn they
turn bright yellow. Petioles short, terete, smooth.

Flowers. — April, May, before the leaves ; monoecious. Stami-
nate aments very similar to those of Corylus a/nericaua. Pistil-
late flowers cluster in a scaly bud and bristle with crimson
threadlike stigmas.

Fruit. — Nut ovoid, somewhat compressed, pale brown. In-
volucre composed of two bristly, hairy bractlets united to the
summit and lengthened into a tubular beak about twice the length
of the nut ; tube minutely grooved, fringed at the summit, and
densely hairy. As the nut ripens the involucre becomes a pale
yellow brown varying to a rich reddish brown ; kernel sweet.

The marked character of the Beaked Hazel-nut is
the involucre which surrounds the nut. It certainly
suggests a narrow long-necked bottle with the nut
snugly packed inside. As these involucres mature



Low Biicli. Bii/iLj punii/j.

Leaves ]/ to i};' luiii;.


with the ripening nut, they show a rare scheme of
color which varies from yellows through browns to
red ; and the dense hairs give a velvety look. The
nuts are all terminal, but out of a cluster that seem to
start even, two or three outstrip the rest and grow, —
the others abort, leaving their little bottle necks to
show where they began life.


Betula piimila. Be tula humilis.

Betula^ an ancient name of uncertain derivation,

A bog shrub two to fifteen feet high, with twigs densely pubes-
cent at first, afterward glabrous. Ranges from Newfoundland to
the Northwest Territories, southward to New Jersey, Ohio and

Leaves. — Alternate, simple, pinnately veined, veins very prom-
inent beneath, one-half to an inch and a half long, obovate,
broadly oval or orbicular, rounded or wedge-shaped at base,
coarsely and irregularly dentate, obtuse or slightly acute at apex.
They come out of the bud pale green, densely pubescent, brown-
ish ; when full grown are thick, dull green, pubescent or glabrous
above, pale green, brownish tomentose or glabrous and very retic-
ulately-veined beneath. Autumnal tint clear, bright yellow.
Petioles short. Stipules fugacious.

Flowers. — May, June, with the leaves. Monoecious ; the
flowers of both kinds borne in catkins. Staminate flower consists
of a four-toothed perianth, subtended by two bractlets and bear-
ing two stamens; filaments short, deeply two-cleft; each fork
bearing an anther-sac. Pistillate flowers two or three in the axil
of each bract, the bracts deciduous with the fruits ; perianth
none; ovary sessile, two-celled ; styles two, mostly persistent.

Fruit. — Strobile, oblong-cylindric, about three-fourths of an
inch long, erect, peduncled. Fruiting bract puberulent or cili-
ate, three-lobed, lateral lobes shorter than the middle one. Nut
small, oblong, rather broader than its wings.



Dwarf Birch, Bitnla glaiidnlosj.

Leaves '4' to 1' long.


Our two low birches undoubtedly owe their hum-
ble position in an arborescent genus to their environ-
ment. One is a denizen of storm-swept mountain
tops; the other dwells in the bogs. Both are excel-
lent shrubs in cultivation, clean cut, slender-stemmed,

The birch fruit is an exceedingly interesting form.
It appears as a cone made up of a large number of
three-lobed scales closely packed one above another,
all attached to a central axis. Lying above each
one, in fact fitting into a little hollow prepared for it,
is a small winged nut, which as the cone matures is re-
leased from its protecting scale and permitted to sail
away as the wind directs. One has to reconstruct
one's idea of a nut to make this minute winged seed
seem to be one, but so the botanists call it.


Bctula ghDidiilbsa.

A shrub, one to four feet high ; twigs brown, glandular-dotted,
not pubescent; found in wet meadows and on mountainsides.
Ranges from Newfoundland to Alaska, the higher mountains of
New England and northern New York, west to Michigan, Min-
nesota and in the Rocky Mountains to Colorado ; also in Asia.

Leaves. — Alternate, simple, pinnately veined, three-fourths to
an inch long, orbicular, oval or obovate, rounded or slightly
cordate at base, irregularly dentulate-serrate, rounded at apex.
When full growm are very reticulate. Thick, bright green,
glabrous above, pale and glandular-dotted beneath. Autumnal
tint clear bright yellow. Petioles short. Stipules fugacious.

Flowers. — June, July. Monoecious. Staminate aments soli-
tary, about half an inch long ; the flowers, about three together
in the axil of each bract, consisting of a membranous four-



Speckled AldcT, /iliiiis nicwu.

Leaves )' to s' l>->iig-


toothed scale, two stamens, and subtended by two bractlets ;
filaments short, deeply two-cleft, each fork bearing an anther-
sac. Pistillate aments cylindric, erect, peduncled ; flowers two
or three in the axil of each bract ; the bracts three-lobed, lateral
lobes divergent, deciduous with the fruit ; ovary sessile, two-
celled ; styles two.

Fruit. — Strobile, oblong-cylindric, a half to an inch long,
erect, peduncled, obtuse at base and apex. Fruiting bract gla-
brous, three-lobed, lateral lobes divergent, rather shorter than the
middle one. Nut tiny, oblong, usually narrower than its wings.

A little inland on the North Cape, the dwarf birch makes its appearance ;
when sheltered attaining a length of about a foot with a stem of a quarter to
a third of an inch in diameter, and requiring a generation or two to reach
these dimensions. It did not raise its top toward the sun, but crouched to
the earth, clinging to it like a creeping plant, to escape being torn away by
the force of the winds.

— " Land of the Midnight Sun." Paul B. Du Chaillu.


Alnns incana.

Alniis, an ancient Latin name derived from the Celtic ; in
allusion to the growth of these plants along streams.

The common northern brook-side alder, abundant at the edge
of streams and in swamps ; reaches a height of eight to ten feet.
Ranges from Newfoundland to Pennsylvania and west to Nebraska.

Stems, — Recent shoots and fruit stalks brown and downy,
dotted with orange lenticels, which gradually become ashen or
grayish brown. Those stems that are deeply shaded are often
deep red or dark green. All are speckled with conspicuous
light gray lenticels.

Leaves. — Alternate, simple, three to five inches long, two to
four inches wide, broad-oval, rounded or cordate at base, doubly
or irregularly serrate, acute at apex. They come out of the bud
very downy ; when full grown are bright dark green above,
pale, sometimes pubescent and often whitish, below ; midvein
and primary veins depressed above, ridged below. In autumn
they turn a briglit. clear yellow. Petiole short, stout.



Upper Spray, Catkins of Alinis rnoosj.
L()wer Spr;iv, C;itkins of ^Inns iitrjiu.


Flowers. — March, April, before the leaves. Monoecious.
Staminate aments are slender, cylindrical, formed in the previous
autumn and hang in stiff and terminal clusters of three, four or
five together on short, leafless branches or peduncles ; when ma-
ture they become two or three inches long. I'hey then consist
of a central axis bearing brown or purple scales on short stalks ;
beneath each scale are three similar ones, each containing a
three to five-lobed calyx-cuj), with three to five stamens from
whose anthers issues a cloud of jJoUen. The i)istillate aments
are also formed during the previous autumn ; are one-fourth to
three-eighths of an inch long, clustered usually in threes; when
mature they become deep jjurple, bristling with scarlet styles.
The position of these pistillate aments is a distinguishing charac-
ter of the i^lant ; they look upward.

Fruit. — Strobile of woody scales grown together, composed of
the pistillate ament enlarged and hardened. Its scales have be-
come woody and each protects a wingless seed-vessel which is
one-celled and one-seeded. October.

The Speckled Alder is easily distinguished by the brilliant, polished,
reddish green color of its stem-bark, and the size, regularity, impressed
reticulations and the downy under-surface of the leaves. The branchlets, at
the time of flowering, are dependent, and the long, pendulous, sterile cat-
kins are thus terminal, while the ovate fertile ones are on shorter, lateral
foot-stalks just above. This is the reverse of the arrangement of the catkins
in the Common Alder in which the fertile aments, being erect, seem termi-
nal, while the sterile ones bend down. The flowers of the alder are among
the earliest liarbingers of spring.

— George H. Emerson.

Tie earliest familiar token of the coming season is the expansion of the
stiff catkins (jf the alder into soft drooping tresses. These are so sensitive,
that if you pluck them at almost any time during the winter, a few days'
sunshine will make them open in a vase of water, and thus they eagerly
yield to every moment of April warmth. The blossom of the birch is more
delicate, that of the willow more showy, but the alders come first. They
cluster and dance everywhere upon the bare bough above the watercourses ;
the blackness of the buds is softened into rich brown and yellow, and as
this graceful creature thus comes waving into the spring, it is pleasant to
remember that the Norse Eddas fabled the first woman to have been named
Embla, because she was created from an alder-bough.

— Thomas Wentworth Higginson.


The Speckled Alder crowds as near lo the water's
edge as it is possible to grow and then leans over as if
hoping to go farther. In midsummer its dark green
foliage fringes the northern watercourses and forms a
natural hedge. Its strong matted r(jots give stability
to the soft banks and keep the stream within hounds.

Throughout the winter many of the slender stems
bear terminal clusters of stiff, c}dindrical, uncom})ro-
mising catkins which were formed the previous autumn,
and which without protection withstand the assaults of
frost and snow and ice. These catkins like the flower
buds of the Silver Maple respond to the first breath of
spring ; the stiff fibres relax, the scales open, and
clusters of long plumy tassels, royal in their purple
and gold, droop from every twig and branchlet. The
catkin-scales are a deep brownish purple and the an-
thers bear immense quantities of pollen which when
mature fall in clouds of golden dust.

The fruit looks like a small pine cone ; each woody
scale protects a wood}^ seed-vessel which in time is
released as the little cone opens. The seeds aie dis-
charged in the autumn and early winter, but the cones
persist until the following summer.

Lenticels appear more or less abundantly upon all
exogenous woody stems; upon manv quite as abun-
dantly as upon the Abuts inca)ia, but in comparison
with Alniis rngosa it bears a great many, whence the
common name Speckled Alder.

In very young shoots of shrubs and trees there are
stomata or breathing pores which occur abundantly in
the epidermis, serving for the admission of air and the
escape of moisture ; while the green layer of the bark



answers tlic same purpose that is served by the green
pulp of the leaf. As the shoot matures, the stomata
are succeeded by lenticels or spongy places, which

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Online LibraryHarriet L. (Harriet Louise) KeelerOur northern shrubs and how to identify them; a handbook for the nature-lover → online text (page 19 of 23)