Twigs and Branches

A web of present and past events

These short articles are written to highlight connections of the plants, history and lore of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden with different time frames or outside connections. A web of intersections.

November 12, 2021: A possible new Oak species for Minnesota?

scarlet oak tree

In our Fall newsletter we reported that Minnesota's climate zones are likely to move northward another 125 to 250 miles in the next 50 years compared to the 70 mile movement of the past 50 years.[note1] We mentioned that this would allow the movement northward from Iowa of the Chinkapin Oak, Quercus muehlenbergii, but this large shift may also allow the introduction of the Scarlet Oak, Quercus coccinea, into at least the southern half of Minnesota. The species has an upright form, the most beautiful Fall color and it already grows here as landscape specimens, nor is it a stranger to the Wildflower Garden as Eloise Butler planted the tree in 1928, as did Cary George in 1994. The habitat of the Garden in Miss Butler's day was not correct for the species and it died out. Scarlet Oak needs a dry, will-drained upland slope with sun. She did not have that in her Garden.

The leaves resemble a cross between Black Oak and Northern Pin Oak. Acorns resemble both, and being a member also of the Red Oak group, the acorns mature on the tree the second year after formation.

For more detail on the species go to our Information Sheet on the tree.

Note (1) "Boreal Forest Warming," Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, St. Paul Scarlet Oak

October 17, 2021: Virginia Creeper or Grape Woodbine - Can you tell the difference?:

We tend to notice this vine in the Fall more than any other time of the year when those reddish 5-parted leaves are climbing a tree or a fence. In other seasons the green leaves blend in with so much other green. We all tend to call this plant Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), although it is rare in the wild in Minnesota, whereas the look-a-like Grape Woodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea) is found in all but five of our 87 counties.

Grape woodbine
Creeper disk pads
The adhesive disk pads of Virginia Creeper. Photo G D Bebeau.

There are two i.d. keys that separate the two species. The first key is the tendril. Both can climb by twining branching tendrils but Virginia Creeper's tendrils form at the tip a knob which flattens and becomes a mucilaginous disk that adheres to the surface it touches. Woodbine does not have the disks. The other key is in the flower panicle - the inflorescence. Creeper has a divergently branched cluster, usually longer than wide, that has a distinct central axis. This means it can continue to extend as much as the vigor of the plant allows. Woodbine has what is called a dichotomous cluster, that is, branched into two somewhat equal forks, sometimes 3, without a distinct central axis and usually wider than long, and the two or three branches are as far as it can grow. Otherwise the flowers themselves are quite similar as are the fruits, although Woodbine's flowers and fruits are somewhat larger. More details about both species are found on our information page.

Woodbine inflorescence
The dichotomous inflorescene of Woodbine with two branches and no central axis. Photo G D Bebeau,
Virginia Creeper inflorescence
The divergent inflorescence of Virginia Creeper with a central axis. Photo Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.

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Previous postings

October 4, 2021: The Autumn Grapplers: Five plants that represent a fair example of the how seeds hitch a ride on humans and animals.

September 5, 2021: Surviving the drought: The many uses of Pennsylvania Sedge.

August 22, 2021: Minnesota connections to naturalist Joseph Banks.

August 13, 2021: Cattail Invasion
We have three species of cattail in our marshes in Minnesota, one native and the other two species are imports which have been running amok for years now. How to tell them apart.

July 23, 2021: Eloise and Monet
Both Eloise Butler and Claude Monet were contemporaries; both wanted a plant garden and a water garden; both achieved what they wanted and both accommodated what many would call a weed.

July 5, 2021: It would not grow for her! The story of Fireweed

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Selections published July - September, 2021.

Selections published January - June, 2021.

Selections published in 2020