03 April, 2020


Simplified Key to the Broadleaf Trees of North Central Texas

1. Are the leaves SIMPLE or COMPOUND?

A leaf is SIMPLE if the blade is a single unit, and COMPOUND if it is made up of two or more discrete leaflets. HINT: Each leaf, whether simple or compound, has a bud at its base (on the twig). There is no bud at the base of a leaflet.

SIMPLE: Go to #2
COMPOUND: Go to #3

2. How are the SIMPLE leaves attached?

ALTERNATELY: GROUP A Simple leaves, alternately attached
OPPOSITELY: GROUP C Simple leaves, oppositely attached

3. How are the COMPOUND leaves attached?

ALTERNATELY: GROUP B Compound leaves, alternately attached
OPPOSITELY: GROUP D Compound leaves, oppositely attached

Accompanies printable brochure. Print 2-sided on legal-size paper, z-fold. Tree ID Brochure (PDF)

Full Key (printable)

Posted on 03 April, 2020 04:44 by lisa281 lisa281 | 2 comments | Leave a comment

30 March, 2020

Key to Trees: GROUP C

GROUP C Simple leaves, oppositely attached

1. Leaves finely toothed, on reddish stem. Leaves rounded on end, almost as wide as long.


+ Leaves have smooth margins (no teeth). Go to #2
2. Twigs are reddish; veins curve upwards towards tip; leaf surfaces are rough.


+ Leaves are otherwise. Go to # 3
3. Leaves are large and glossy.


+ Leaves are small. Go to #4
4. Leaves have a wedge-shaped base and a short stem. Fruit is on a loose pedicel.


+ Leaves taper to stem, very short petiole, if any.


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Posted on 30 March, 2020 20:39 by lisa281 lisa281 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Key to Trees: GROUP D

GROUP D Compound leaves, oppositely attached

1. Leaves have 3-5 leaflets, with irregular lobes and/or teeth.


+ Leaves have 5-9 leaflets, without lobes; smooth margins or widely spaced teeth. Go to #2
2. Leaf scar is a semi-circle, with the new bud sitting above it. The fruit is a samara (winged seed) with a needle-like point and a flat seed.


+ Fruit is a samara (winged seed) with a rounded point and a thick seed. Leaf scar is horse-shoe or smile shaped, partially surrounding the new leaf bud. Go to #3
3. Samara about 1” long; leaves often have 5 rounded leaflets. Common on limestone soil. Grows mostly in and west of Collin and Dallas counties.


+ Samara about 2” long; leaves often have 7 leaflets. Grows mostly to the east of Collin and Dallas counties.


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Posted on 30 March, 2020 20:21 by lisa281 lisa281 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

29 March, 2020

Key to Trees: GROUP B

GROUP B Compound leaves, alternately attached

1. The trees are armed. (have thorns or spines) Go to #2
+ The trees are unarmed. (no thorns or spines) Go to #4
2. Thorns on thorn, often extremely thorny, leaves once or twice compound. Fruit a wide, flat pod, dark brown when mature, 10-18" long.


+ No thorns on thorns Go to #3
3. The bark has corky outgrowths tipped with short thorns. Leaflets often have prickles


+ Compound leaf branches into two parts; stout straight thorns up to 2" long. Fruit a rounded pod, 6-9” long


4. Leaves are twice-compound, leaflets coarsely toothed or lobed. Fruit a small round ball, green or yellow when mature


+ Leaves are once-compound, margins smooth or toothed, but leaves are not lobed. Go to #5
5. Leaflets are finely toothed. Go to #6
+ Leaflets have smooth margins. Go to #7
6. Largest leaflets near the middle of leaf, last leaflet often small or missing. 15-23 leaflets, bark is dark and cracked into rough diamonds when mature.


+ Largest leaflet near the end of the leaf, and there is usually a terminal leaflet present; leaf has 11-17 curved leaflets. Bark is gray, very rough and craggy.


7. Leaflets are oval shaped, small. Fruit hanging in a "string of beads."


+ Leaflets are lanceolate Go to #8
8. Bark is light gray; leaflets 7-19, alternate on rachis, usually no terminal leaflet; mild smell when crushed.


+ Bark is cinnamon colored; usually has a terminal leaflet, except on very young trees; leaflets have strong, peppery scent when crushed.


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Posted on 29 March, 2020 23:11 by lisa281 lisa281 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Key to Trees: GROUP A

GROUP A: Simple leaves, alternately attached

1. The trees have acorns. (Look for acorns or acorn caps still attached to tree, or acorns on the ground.) Buds are clustered at the ends of twigs. (OAKS) Go to #2
+ The trees don’t have acorns Go to #7
2. The leaves do NOT have prominent lobes Go to #3
+ The leaves DO have prominent lobes Go to #4
3. The leaves are small and thick, with pointed tips. Leaves remain attached through the winter. Not native to NCTx, but frequently cultivated here.


+ The leaves are large and have large, coarse teeth


4. The leaves have bristle tips Go to #5
+ The leaves do not have bristle tips. Go to #6
5. Leaves have 5-9 lobes with bristle tips



(Note: Shumard Oaks predominate east of NCTx, Texas Red Oaks to the west. Within NCTx, these two frequently hybridize.)
+ The leave have 3 lobes with bristle tips, are leathery and dark green, glossy on top. Bark is very dark


6. The leaves have rounded lobes, with the end lobe largest. Acorns are huge


+ The leaves often have five rounded lobes, forming a cross shape, but leaf shape is quite variable. Acorns are small.


7. The branches/twigs are armed. (They have thorns, spines, etc.) Go to #8
+ The branches/twigs are NOT armed. (no thorns or spines) Go to # 11
8. The leaves are toothed Go to #9
+ The leaves are NOT toothed; leaf margins are smooth. Go to # 10
9. The leaves are about as wide as long, have large teeth and sometimes lobes. Thorns are slender and attach near where leaf attaches.


+ The leaves are finely toothed, and appear somewhat “wilted.” They are longer than wide, and have a long pointed tip. Bark is very dark


10. The leaves are small (2-3” long,) thick and fairly stiff. They have a broad tip and narrow to the stem. They cluster on spurs.


+ Leaves are large and broad, most >4” long; with long pointed tip. Go to #24
11. Leaves toothed, but very variable in shape, even on the same tree: some lobed, some mitten-shaped, some not lobed; fruit an elongated berry.


+ The leaves are not highly variable, including lobed and unlobed leaves on the same tree. Go to #12
12. The leaves are roughly oval, oblong, or egg-shaped Go to #17
+ The leaves are NOT oval, oblong, or egg-shaped. Go to #12
13. The leaves are very long and narrow. (over 3” long, about ½” wide). The bark is very dark, furrowed, often twisted.


+ The leaves are about as wide as they are tall. Go to #14
14. The leaves are roughly triangle/heart shaped. Go to #15
+ The leaves have spiky lobes, roughly star-shaped. Go to #16
15. The leaves are triangle shaped, with toothed margins


+ The leaves are heart shaped, with smooth margins. Pink flowers in the spring, before leaves appear.


16. The leaves are star shaped. Spiky balls remain on tree.


+ The leaves have 3-5 shallow lobes and large teeth. Distinctive peeling bark exposes light underbark. Ball are not spiky


17. The leaves are asymmetrical at their bases. Go to #18
+ The leave are symmetrical at their bases Go to # 23
18. The leaves have three basal veins: three main veins coming from the leaf base; secondary veins come from all three main veins. Leaves usually have mostly smooth margins, or only a few teeth.


+ The leaves have pinnate venation (veins like a feather: one central vein with secondary veins coming off the central vein.) The leaves are toothed, often double-toothed. Go to #19
19. The leaves are only slightly asymmetrical at the base, leaves smooth and shiny. Bark is mottled with orangish areas. (Non-native tree, usually cultivated)


+ Leaves are strongly asymmetrical at the base, teeth usually doubly-serrate: each tooth has a break or cut on one side. Go to #19
20. The leaves are large, typically 2-5” long. Length of the leaf is usually about twice its width. Go to #21
+ The leaves are small, typically 1-3” long. Length is usually less than twice the width. Twigs often have corky “wings.” Go to #22
21. The leaves are smooth to slightly rough on top; on most leaves, few secondary veins fork well before the edge. (no more than 1-2 per side.)


+ The leaves are quite rough on top; on most leaves, several secondary veins fork well before the edge. (more than 2 per side)


22. The leaves have pointed tips, smooth or slightly rough on top, flowers in the spring. Usually has corky wings on twigs


+ The leaves have wide, rounded tips, are rough on top; flowers in the fall. Sometimes has corky wings on twigs


23. The leaves are large, usually 4 or more inches long. Go to #24
+ The leaves are small, have indistinct teeth, often red berries Go to #25
24. The leaves have conspicuously parallel secondary veins and have finely toothed to smooth margins.


+ The leaves are large, without teeth, and without conspicuously parallel secondary veins. Go to #25
25. Leaves are ovate (wider at the bottom than top,) with long pointed tips. Wood deeply furrowed, showing orange where exposed, especially exposed roots. Twigs produce a sticky, milky sap when broken.


+ The leaves have smooth margins, and back of leaf much lighter than front. The bark on a young tree is grayish brown with orange tint in fissures. When mature, it is very dark, deeply divided into small blocks, resembling charcoal briquettes. (AKA as alligator-skin bark). Fruit orange when ripe, with a four-sided cap which remains after the fruit has fallen.


26. The leaves are evergreen, smooth, abruptly narrowed at base


+ The leaves are wider near the tip, tapering to base, fuzzy underneath, not stiff.


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Posted on 29 March, 2020 22:43 by lisa281 lisa281 | 1 comment | Leave a comment

04 March, 2020

Elm: Identify Four Elms by Spring Samaras

These four elms include three native elms, plus one introduced (and uncommon) elm. These elms all flower and fruit in the spring, before leaves arrive. The fruit of elms is a flat, rounded samara, with a central seed surrounded by a thin wing. Here's how to identify American Elm, Slippery Elm, Winged Elm, and Siberian Elm from these samaras.

American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Slippery Elm (U. rubra)

Winged Elm (U. alata)

Siberian Elm (U. pumila)

Samaras have cilia around the edges, but smooth on front and back surfaces Samaras have NO cilia around the edges , just fuzz on front and back surfaces, in the center over the seed Samaras have cilia around the edges AND fuzz on front and back surfaces; often reddish Samaras have NO cilia around the edges, and also NO fuzz on the front or back surfaces
Samaras are elongated (longer than wide) and deeply notched Samaras are round (about as long as wide) and not deeply notched Samara are lanceolate (long and narrow) and have deep "claw-like" notch at the bottom, Samara are round and have very small notch at the bottom,

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Posted on 04 March, 2020 14:10 by lisa281 lisa281 | 6 comments | Leave a comment

26 February, 2020

Helpful Identification Guides

Updated: June, 2021

* Acanthocephalus: Spine-Headed/Leaf-footed Bugs Zootaxa article
*Agalinis: Identifying Agalinis spp. (False Foxgloves) in Texas @pfau_tarleton
* Anemones: Guide to ID @pfau_tarleton
* Assassin Bugs ( Zelus spp.) @pfau_tarleton
* Broomrape Species @blue_celery
* Broomweed: Amphiachyris dracunculoides and look-alikes @rymcdaniel
* Brambles: Dewberries and Blackberries ( Rubus species of Texas) @kimberlietx
* Bumblebees @pfau_tarletonr
* Crotons @nathantaylor
* Dandelions @nathantaylor
* Draba and related genera @pfau_tarleton
* Elms: American vs. Slippery @lisa281
* Elms: Cedar vs. Winged @lisa281
* Elms: Chinese vs. Siberian @lisa281
* Elm spring samaras: American, Slippery, and Winged Elm @lisa281
* Erigeron (Fleabane and Horseweed) @lisa281
* Frogfruits (Phyla) @lisa281
* Galls: Texas Woolly Oak Galls @kimberlietx
* Gallformers (Website for Gall ID) @megachile
* Hawks - Cooper's vs Sharp-shinned Cornell
* Leaves: Glossary of Leaves @kimberlietx
* Medicago (Medicks) @nathantaylor
* Mosses: Identifying Goblet Mosses @rmedina
* Moths: Guide to Petrophila Moths in Texas @gcwarbler
* Moth Wing Features @mamestraconfigurata
* MULBERRY: Red vs. White Purdue
* Mushrooms: Simplified Key to Major Groups of Mushrooms Michael Kuo @ MushroomExpert.Com
* Mushrooms: Photographing for better ID Billy Stone, BRIT
* Packera and Senecio (Groundsels) @lisa281
* Privets ( Ligustrum spp.) @lisa281
* Sesbania (Riverhemps) @lisa281
* Soapberry vs. Pistache @baldeagle
* Solidago (Goldenrods) @bouteloua
* Spurges of the DFW area @nathantaylor
* Sumac (Rhus spp.) YouTube video @conboy
* Sumacs: Key to ID the Rhus spp of North America @conboy
* Swallowtail Butterflies: The Four Dark Swallowtails Blog: Louisiana Naturalist
* Tetrigidae Pygmy Grasshoppers @aispinsects
* Thistles: Identifying Texas Thistles Katie Stern at Perennial Ecology
* Three-Banded LeafhoppersErythroneura spp. @kimberlietx
* Tick Identification TickEncounter Resource Center
* Trees: Identify sometimes difficult trees (and other tree ID info.) @lanechaffin
* Trees: First Steps in Tree ID (You Tube Video) @lisa281
*Triodanis spp. Venus's Looking Glass @kimberlietx
* Turkey Tail and Lookalikes @sarahduhon
Posted on 26 February, 2020 12:25 by lisa281 lisa281 | 33 comments | Leave a comment

11 February, 2020

The Elm Project, Part 3: Cedar Elm vs. Winged Elm

CEDAR ELM (Ulmus crassifolia) vs. WINGED ELM (U. alata)
These two elms also drove me crazy for a while! In a better, simpler world, all elms with wings would be Winged Elms, but this is not the case. These both can have corky “wings” on their twigs, so despite the name, you can’t identify a Winged Elm by these alone. Both of these elms have small leaves, asymmetrical bases and (usually) double-toothed margins. However, Winged Elm usually has many winged twigs, while in Cedar Elm they occur mostly on young trees, and many large Cedar Elms have none at all. The ranges of these two overlap, and Cedar Elm’s range includes the eastern half of Texas. In North Central Texas, cedar Elm is much more common than Winged Elm. Winged Elm’s range covers only the eastern quarter of Texas, so only part of North Central Texas. The trees range as far west as the East Cross Timbers region, which cuts through Denton and Tarrant counties. Winged Elms prefer sandy soil and do not grow well in clay. We find them quite commonly east of the metroplex, but rarely, if ever, in the Blackland Prairie area. In west Denton county, where we get into the Cross Timbers area, we’ve found quite a few.

  1. The most sure-fire way of distinguishing these two is seasonal: Cedar Elm is the only native elm that flowers in the fall, while Winged Elm flowers in the spring. In North Texas, the small, round samaras of Cedar Elm are evident through most of September, and often hang on even later.
    -- Here's an observation showing the autumn samaras of a Cedar Elm:

    Autumn samaras of Cedar Elm, Sept. 5, 2021

  2. Winged Elm produces flowers and seeds in the spring, around March, before the leaves appear. Winged Elm is the only elm in North Texas that has corky wings on branches AND makes its seeds in the spring. Here are the spring samaras of a Winged Elm:
    Spring samaras of Winged Elm

  3. For the rest of the year, Cedar Elm leaves tend to be somewhat smaller than those of Winged Elm, and have a blunt tip. Cedar Elm leaves are also stiff and thick, while Winged Elm leaves are thinner and smoother on top. That’s hard to see in pictures, but it’s pretty obvious when you handle the leaves.
    Leaves of Winged Elm

  4. The leaf shape differs: Cedar Elm leaves (above)are more rounded or blunt at the tip, while Winged Elm leaves (below) are pointed at the tip. Here's a picture of a Winged Elm twig with leaves:
    Leaves of Winged Elm

  5. Winter twigs: the twigs of Winged Elm are redder, and the buds are larger.
    Winter twigs of Winged Elm vs. Cedar Elm

  6. The flowers and samaras of Winged Elm, like those of American Elm and Slippery Elm, appear in the spring before leaves open. They are fuzzy on both front and back surfaces, as well as having fine hairs extending from the margins. The samaras aren’t tightly clustered like those of the Slippery Elm, but don’t droop on long stalks like those of American Elm either.
    • Here’s a picture of Winged Elm samaras, with cilia around the margins AND fuzz on the front and back surfaces:

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Posted on 11 February, 2020 22:30 by lisa281 lisa281 | 5 comments | Leave a comment

10 February, 2020

Packera and Senecio (Groundsels and Ragworts)

This is one of those groups where I can remember the Latin name more easily than the common name. I think Packera is easier to remember than groundsel. I remember getting a pretty good handle on these in 2019, but after not thinking about them since early spring almost a year ago, I couldn’t remember what the differences were! So, it was back to the big book (Flora of North Central Texas) to sort it all out AGAIN. I thought I’d write it down this time, just in case I’ve forgotten by the time these roll around next spring (which seems more than likely!)

There are two Senecio species to be found around nc TX:

S. ampullaceus (Texas Groundsel) and S. vulgaris (Common Groundsel). These two are distinguished from the Packera species by their clasping leaves. I have never observed Texas Groundsel, but the S. vulgaris is very common – hence the name, I guess!
(1) S. vulgaris: ray flowers usually missing, leaves pinnately lobed, phyllaries black-tipped. (COMMON GROUNDSEL)

(2) S. ampullaceus: ray flowers prominent, leaves shallowly toothed, phyllaries green-tipped (TEXAS GROUNDSEL)

There are four Packera species found in nc TX.

The first two Packera species have their largest leaves crowded near the base, and upper leaves greatly reduced and often different in shape from lower leaves. Both are fairly common here.

(1) P. obovata: blades of basal leaves are round (< 1.5 times as long as wide), plants glabrous except in leaf axils, inflorescence WITHOUT woolly pubescence; basal leaves usually purple on the underside. (GOLDEN GROUNDSEL, ROUNDLEAF RAGWORT)
Stem pubescence

(2) P. plattensis: blades of basal leaves oblong:(> 1.5 times as long as wide) plants unevenly woolly pubescent: Very unevenly woolly when young, and with at least some woolly pubescence at the nodes of the inflorescence even when mature. Basal leaves usually green on the underside, but may have some purple. (PRAIRIE GROUNDSEL)

The final two Packera species have leaves that are pinnately compound or very deeply lobed, fairly evenly distributed along the stem (not crowded at the base,) and basal and stem leaves are similar in shape. Neither of these have wooly pubescence.

(1) P. tampicana: lateral lobes of lower and middle stem eaves often contracted to very narrow linear basal that attaches to the midrib. Weedy in low prairies ,disturbed areas, roadsides. Typically in open places. (GREAT PLAINS

(2) P. glabella: Rare in nc TX, mainly se and e TX. (BUTTERWEED)
Stem pubescence

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Posted on 10 February, 2020 01:34 by lisa281 lisa281 | 1 comment | Leave a comment

Erigeron (Fleabane and Horseweed)

In early April, 2019, I set myself a goal of taming the fleabanes, and they turned out to be quite manageable! (This was so satisfying that I became overconfident and decided to tackle the Blue-eyed grasses next. That did not work out as well, so there won't be a Sisyrinchium journal from me anytime soon!)

About fleabanes: in short, there are only two common species of true fleabane here: Philadelphia Fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus) and Daisy Fleabane (E. strigosus.) The telling feature is the shape of the MIDDLE and UPPER stem leaves. In Philadelphia Fleabane, these leaves widen at the base (stem end) and are often somewhat clasping. In Daisy Fleabane, these leaves taper to the base (stem) and are not clasping.

Daisy Fleabane has stem leaves that taper to the base.

Philadelphia Fleabane has stem leaves with a wide ,somewhat clasping base.

That's the gist, but of course, it's not QUITE that simple. If you want the details, keep reading.

Four species of Erigeron occur in Collin County: E. strigosus, (Daisy Fleabane,) E. philadelphicus, (Philadelphia Fleabane,) E. canadensis (Horseweed,) and E. tenuis (Slender Fleabane.)
E. canadensis (Horseweed) is fairly easily distinguished from the fleabanes. This species has very inconspicuous ray flowers, barely exceeding the phyllaries.

E. strigosus (Daisy Fleabane) is the most common fleabane here. The upper and middle stem leaves are narrowed basally; that is, the leaf tapers to the stem. These middle and upper leaves are 4-10 times as long as wide, and there are usually 17-25 leaves on well-developed plants. The basal leaves are much different, and can be up to 70 mm wide.

E. philadelphicus (Philadelphia Fleabane) is the second most common type of fleabane here. (However, it tends to bloom earlier than Daisy Fleabane, so in earLy spring, this is one I see most frequently.) The middle and upper stem leaves widen basally, that is, the leaf’s widest part is at the stem. These leaves are often more or less clasping, are 4-20 mm wide, and 2-4 times as long as wide. The lower leaves are on petioles, often somewhat winged.

E. tenuis is not common in NC Texas, but you may encounter it. It has middle and upper leaves similar to those of E. strigosus. It has fewer leaves (7-15 on well-developed plants,) and the basal leaves are narrower (<15 mm). Most telling, the ray flowers are purple or blue-ish, especially underneath.

Posted on 10 February, 2020 01:29 by lisa281 lisa281 | 0 comments | Leave a comment