A Tree Identification Booklet
for South Carolina Forests
Characteristics: Boxelder leaves grow opposite on the twigs and branches and are pinnately compound. They have 3-9 coarsely-toothed leaflets. The fruit is pale yellow with long-curved wings. The male and female flowers are on separate trees.
Location: Boxelder grows on moist soils along streambanks and is naturalized along roadsides.
Use: Because it is hardy and fast growing, it is planted for shade but it is short-lived and the wood is weak and brittle.
FUN TREE FACT: Plains Indians made sugar from the sap.
Characteristics: This is a large spiny tree with bipinnately and pinnately compound leaves. The axis, or main leaf stem, often has 3 to 6 pairs of side forks. The leaf has many leaflets. The twigs are shiny brown and zigzaged. The bark has stout brown spines sometimes 3" long with 3 points. The fruit is a very long 6-16" flat-pod, slightly curved and twisted.
Location: You will usually find honey-locust on moist soils or river flood plains in mixed forests.
Use: Livestock and wildlife consume the honeylike, sweet pulp of the pods.
Fun Tree Fact: The spines have been used as pins. An alcoholic beverage can be made from the fruit.
Characteristics: The compound leaves are 8-12" long and have 7 to 9 leaflets; the undersurface is densely hairy. The nutmeat is sweet. In the fall, look for the bright yellow leaves; these trees will often be hickory.
Location: This tree is found on drier soils of ridges and hillsides.
Use: Prized for furniture, flooring, tool handles, baseball bats, skis, and veneer. Hickory makes excellent firewood and a charcoal source. Squirrels and other wildlife feed on the nuts.
FUN TREE FACT: The wood is preferred for smoking hams and barbecuing. Leaves are very aromatic when bruised.
Characteristics: The pecan is the largest of the hickories; sometimes growing up to 180' with a diameter of 6-7 feet. The leaf is compound, 12-20" long with 9-17 long-pointed saw-toothed leaflets. The leaf color is yellow-green. The thinned shelled pecan nut is smooth with a 4-sectional dark brown husk that splits open when the fruit is ripe. It is sweet and a favorite food of wild turkeys, bluejays, squirrels, and people.
Location: The pecan grows best in bottomland hardwood areas. It likes moist well-drained loamy soils of flood plains and valleys. It is also planted in orchards and plantations.
Use: The pecan's chief value is the nut. But the wood is used for furniture stock, flooring, veneer and charcoal for smoking meats.
FUN TREE FACT: Thomas Jefferson planted pecan seeds at Monticello and gave some to George Washington; now these Pecan trees are the oldest trees in Mount Vernon.
"Firecracker-plant", "Scarlet buckeye"
Characteristics: This is a small tree. Notice the palmately compound leaves. They have 5 (sometimes 7) leaflets on narrow leafstalks. The leaflets are irregularly saw-toothed and the veins are sunken. The seeds are poisonous. The flowers are bright red.
Location: This tree does well in moist soils especially along river bluffs, along streams, swamps and in flood plains. It grows as an understory tree in the forest.
Use: It is planted as a handsome ornamental because of its showy red flowers suggesting firecrackers.
FUN TREE FACT: American Indians threw powdered seeds and crushed branches of this tree into pools of water to stupefy fish. The fish rose to the surface and were easily caught. Pioneers used the gummy roots as a soap substitute and made home remedies from the bark.
Characteristics: The compound leaves are 8-14" long with 5 oval finely-toothed leaflets. The leaflet at the end is largest. Shagbark hickory is named for the light-gray bark that separates into thick plates a foot long that curl outward at both ends. The nutmeat is sweet.
Location: Shagbark hickory grows on a variety of sites and soils. In South Carolina it grows in the deep, moist soils of valleys and upland slopes in mixed hardwood stands.
Use: Cultivated varieties produce commercial hickory nuts. The hard, durable wood is used for tool handles, baseball bats and interior furniture wood.
FUN TREE FACT: General Andrew Jackson was given the name "Old Hickory" by his backwoods militia because he was "tough as hickory".
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