=Habitat and Range.=--In strong, well-drained soil; pastures, rocky
woods, and hillsides.
Maine,--southern sections, probably not indigenous north of latitude 44 deg.
20'; New Hampshire,--Connecticut valley near the river, as far north as
Windsor, Vt.; most abundant in the Merrimac valley south of Concord, but
occasional a short distance northward; Vermont,--common in
southern sections, especially in the Connecticut valley; occasional as
far north as Windsor (Windsor county), West Rutland (Rutland county),
Burlington (Chittenden county); Massachusetts,--rather common throughout
the state, but less frequent near the sea; Rhode Island and
South to Delaware, along the mountains to Alabama; west to
Michigan, Indiana, and Tennessee.
=Habit.=--A tree of the first magnitude, rising to a height of 60-80
feet and reaching a diameter of 5-6 feet above the swell of the roots,
with a spread sometimes equaling or even exceeding the height; attaining
often much greater proportions. The massive trunk separates usually a
few feet from the ground into several stout horizontal or ascending
branches, the limbs higher up, horizontal or rising at a broad angle,
forming a stately, open, roundish, or inversely pyramidal head;
branchlets slender; spray coarse and not abundant; foliage bright green,
dense, casting a deep shade; flowers profuse, the long, sterile catkins
upon their darker background of leaves conspicuous upon the hill
slopes at a great distance. A tree that may well dispute precedence with
the white or red oak.
=Bark.=--Bark of trunk in old trees deeply cleft with wide ridges, hard,
rough, dark gray; in young trees very smooth, often shining; season's
shoots green or purplish-brown, white-dotted.
=Winter Buds and Leaves.=--Buds small, ovate, brown, acutish. Leaves
simple, alternate, 5-10 inches long, 1-3 inches wide, bright clear
green above, paler beneath and smooth on both sides; outline
oblong-lanceolate, sharply and coarsely serrate; veins straight,
terminating in the teeth; apex acuminate; base acute or obtuse;
leafstalk short; stipules soon falling.
=Inflorescence.=--June to July. Appearing from the axils of the season's
shoots, after the leaves have grown to their full size; sterile catkins
numerous, clustered or single, erect or spreading, 4-10 inches long,
slender, flowers pale yellowish-green or cream-colored; calyx pubescent,
mostly 6-parted; stamens 15-20; odor offensive when the anthers are
discharging their pollen: fertile flowers near the base of the upper
sterile catkins or in separate axils, 1-3 in a prickly involucre; calyx
6-toothed; ovary ovate, styles as many as the cells of the ovary,
=Fruit.=--Burs round, thick, prickly, 2-4 inches in diameter, opening by
4 valves: nuts 1-5, dark brown, covered with whitish down at apex, flat
on one side when there are several in a cluster, ovate when only one,
sweet and edible.
=Horticultural Value.=--Hardy throughout New England; prefers fertile,
well-drained, gravelly or rocky soil; rather difficult to transplant;
usually obtainable in nurseries. Its vigorous and rapid growth, massive,
broad-spreading head and attractive flowers make it a valuable tree for
landscape gardening, but in public places the prickly burs and edible
fruit are a serious disadvantage. Propagated from the seed.
1. Winter buds.
2. Flowering branch.
3. Sterile flower.
4. Fertile flower.
Inflorescence appearing with the leaves in spring; sterile catkins from
terminal or lateral buds on shoots of the preceding year, bracted,
usually several in a cluster, unbranched, long, cylindrical, pendulous;
bracts of sterile flowers minute, soon falling; calyx parted or lobed;
stamens 3-12, undivided: fertile flowers terminal or axillary upon the
new shoots, single or few-clustered, bracted, erect; involucre scaly,
becoming the cupule or cup around the lower part of the acorn; ovary
3-celled; stigma 3-lobed.
Leaves with obtuse or rounded lobes or teeth; cup-scales thickened or
knobbed at base; stigmas sessile or nearly so; fruit maturing the first