|Rusty black haw bud **|
The branches were opposite, just like a dogwood. You may recall "MAD Buck" as a mnemonic reminder for opposite branching trees (Maple, Ash, Dogwood and Buckeye). I was taught "MAD Cap Buck" which includes Caprifoliaceae family, its viburnum genus including shrubs and small trees like the black haws. Just when the "Cap" started to pay off, some %$#&// botanists have decided to move viburnums into the Adoxaceae family. Try using that word in a sentence!
The really distinguishing characteristic is the tree buds. The flowering dogwood bud is onion shaped while the black haw has a flame shaped bud, rusty in color with a tiny white band around the base, reminiscent of a ring-necked snake. The nice thing about trying to identify understory trees is that the buds and stems are available, unlike mature oaks and hickories. In addition to avoiding snap judgements, I need to start paying more attention to those budding thoughts.
There is a good description of the rusty black haw at wildflower.org.
*Robert DeMoss is a forester with the NRCS out of Ozark.