Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Ah Haw Moment

Recently I had an "ah haw!" moment.  Actually it was more of an "Ah- a haw!" moment.  It was when I discovered that the "flowering dogwood" in front of the cabin is a rusty black haw, Viburnum rufidulum.  Unfortunately I had pointed it out to a group of teachers studying forestry at Bull Creek and the instructor Robert DeMoss* very politely corrected me.

Rusty black haw bud **
My problem in identification you might say stems from the stem and the trunk.  The bark at first glance looks like the very distinctive flowering dogwood bark.  Dogwood leaves are currently a bright crimson color, while this tree's leaves were a little less intense red.

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 %$#&amp// 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

*Robert DeMoss is a forester with the NRCS out of Ozark.

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