Latest Slideshows

New slideshows are now appearing at our photography web site, The Lives of Trees. Visit the Latest Stories at the Lives of Trees to see what’s new. We will continue updating stories at both sites. We will post information about all updates to both sites here.

Woodland pastures in the Bluegrass

Woodland pastures have been a dominant feature of the Bluegrass landscape since before settlement in 1779. Today, central Kentucky farms are still the home of ancient trees in woodland pastures. Click the picture below for a slide show of woodland pastures in the Bluegrass. .

picture of Shumard oak

A most puzzling tree

Shumard oak, Quercus shumardii, is a puzzling tree. It is not abundant anywhere in its large range. It is easily confused with other red oaks, and it probably hybridizes with them. In the Bluegrass, Shumard oak is common, but highly variable. Here is a slide show of Shumard oaks in the Bluegrass.

Picture of a white ash behind a building

A tree in a tight place

Trees with limited root systems often fair poorly, unless they are very deeply rooted. Here is a slide show of a white ash with a very limited root system that is doing well because it is deeply rooted in the limestone rock.

An elegant old tree

There is a beautiful old catalpa tree at Ashland, in Lexington, KY, that has been loved by generations of visitors. I suspect it is the most photographed tree in the Bluegrass. A close look at the tree shows the great character that develops with age. Here is a slide show of the old tree.

Pollen cones of white pine

Conifers like eastern white pine, Pinus strobus, don’t produce flowers, but they can be very attractive in the spring when they show their cones. Here is a slide show of pollen cones, male cones that produce clouds of yellow pollen. Don’t worry, pine pollen rarely causes allergies.

Life cycle of buckeye

Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra, is a common tree in the Bluegrass and Midwest. Here is a slideshow of its life cycle. More photos will be added as time permits.

Fringetree in Flower

Fringetree is one of the most elegant small trees in our flora. Here is a slideshow about fringetree at The Lives of Trees.

Ash trees losing leaves

How do your ash trees look?

Have you noticed any ash trees in your neighborhood dropping green leaves? Several days of heavy rain over the last few weeks have allowed the development of a common ash disease called ash anthracnose. The disease is caused by a fungus, Gnomoniella fraxini. The fungus spends the winter on old petioles (leaf stalks) and branches. […]

The poison tree

Scroll down for story below the slide show. [soliloquy id=”1453″] Hiking in the Sierra Nevada foothills, I saw the tree first, then its flowers, and then the pile of dead bees beneath the tree. The tree was a California buckeye, Aesculus californica, and the flowers had killed the bees. Buckeye is a small group of […]

Picture of a white ash behind a building

One tough landmark tree

In 1989, Bob Ramsey opened a little restaurant on the corner of E. High Street and Woodland Avenue in Lexington, Kentucky.  The restaurant, with its excellent comfort food, soon became a landmark in Lexington.  A patio behind the restaurant provided outdoor dining shaded by a large white ash tree that is as much a landmark […]

American bison on Bluegrass pasture

Bison, the National Mammal

The American bison has been an enduring symbol of the United States since before the founding of the nation. Though we think of bison as primarily a western animal, there were plenty of bison in the east. The first bison ever seen by early settlers was in what is now Washington DC! In spite of […]

Why are young bur oak leaves hairy?

  Young bur oak leaves are densely hairy.  Why?  Scroll down past picture to read more… Why are the young leaves of so many trees hairy? Here are some possible benefits to hairiness in leaves.  There is no reason to think that only one of these explanations is correct. Many organs, tissues and processes in […]

Picture of serviceberry flowers

Time for Services

Serviceberry trees are blooming all over the Appalachians. Although other trees like birch and alder may flower earlier, the first showy flowers are serviceberries, coming a couple of weeks before the dogwood. The slopes of all the forested hollows in eastern Kentucky are dotted with these elegant, slender trees. In the old days, before good […]

Our most successful tree?

Reforest the Bluegrass is one of the oldest and most successful community forestry programs in the US. Every year in April, thousands of volunteers turn out to plant trees from the Kentucky Division of Forestry nursery. The purpose of the program is to establish forests along riparian zones to protect water quality. There is no […]

Bleeding sap in sugar maple

Sap flow in spring

Have you noticed any cut branches lately?  Freshly pruned or broken branches at this time of year often ‘bleed’ sap, and that sap may taste very sweet. Just before trees leaf out, they convert a large amount of starch to sugar.  The high concentration of sugar in the xylem sap causes a flow of water […]

The Ghetto Palm?

Scroll down below slideshow for the story [soliloquy id=”1586″] Tree-of-heaven, Ailanthus altissima, is a very common tree in large eastern cities. A native of Asia, Ailanthus was introduced as an ornamental and quickly escaped cultivation.  It has a remarkable ability to grow successfully in cracks in sidewalks, abandoned lots, even from the gutters of old […]

Winter Sex: The Puzzling Case of Witchhazel

This is part of our ongoing series on tree sex.   Witchhazel is one of the most beautiful shrubs or small trees in forests throughout the temperate zone.  It is easy to overlook in the summer, mixed in with lots of other shrubs and trees along creek banks and moist lower slopes of forests. It […]

More Tree Sex at Under Main

The nice people at Under Main worked with me to put together a tree sex video and story.  See the whole thing at Under Main, or go straight to the YouTube video.  More to come!    

Male and female catkins of black alder

Tree Sex Part 3

Some trees are pollinated entirely by wind.  Many wind-pollinated hardwood trees make complex slender compound flower structures called catkins. Later this spring, we will see catkins in all our oak trees, mulberries, walnuts and chestnuts, and further north on true poplars. Now, in early spring, you will notice catkins on alders, willows and birches. Male […]

Tree Sex, Part 2

Many early spring trees are pollinated both by wind and insects.  For insects, these early spring trees can be critically important.  At a time when few plants are flowering, bees and other insects rely on trees for pollen.  Most early spring trees produce little or no nectar, and are much more important as a pollen […]

Flowering schedules in alpine flowers are changing

A 39-year record of wildflower blooming in the Rocky Mountains  shows that climate change has altered the timing of blooming for most species in an alpine meadow.  (Link is to University of Maryland press release. Original paper published in PNAS). The blooming season now runs from late April to late September instead of late May to […]

Tree Sex

It’s Spring and time for trees to start their amazing sexual displays.  Tree flowers are often small and subtle, but will reward your close attention.  This is a  silver maple flower with the female parts fully expressed – the stigma is a sticky surface ready to receive pollen from another tree.  The male parts in […]

Mistletoe Part 2

We talked about the mistletoes of the Bluegrass a while ago.  There are actually two broad groups of mistletoes in North America, the true mistletoes, which are found on hardwoods, and the dwarf mistletoes, which are only found on conifers.  We only have true mistletoe in the Bluegrass.  True mistletoe is fairly easy on its […]