Papaw tree, Asimina triloba

Papaw tree leaves are simple, alternate, elliptical in shape, and approximately 8-12 inches long. The tree’s signature feature is the papaw fruit, which resemble small mangoes. This tree was photographed in the courtyard of Jennings Hall on campus, a small garden in the midst of the dense urban campus area.

While researching this tree I learned that the ripened fruit was used by Native Americans to create a bright yellow dye, and that though the fruit is edible, it is known to cause nausea in some individuals [source]. I’ve tried papaws before, and maybe the one I ate was over ripe but the experience was very… slimy? It didn’t taste awful but it wasn’t good.

Red mulberry, Morus rubra

This tree was also found in the courtyard of Jennings Hall. All of the ones on this page were, except for one later on, so I’ll stop saying it every time. The mulberry family has a distinctive leaf shape that evolves as the leaves mature, as well as a toothed edge. The alternating leaf pattern and dull texture on the leaves identify this tree as the red variety (the berries, not the leaves).

Fun fact: all parts of this tree produce a milky white sap that is poisonous, including the berries! Eating them is only a good idea when they are fully ripe [source].

Common witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana

The leaves are simple and opposite, with a matte surface and slight wavy edge to them. There are dead flower buds left along the stem that show the flower growth pattern.

The bark and leaves have long been made into topical ointments and poultices for medicinal purposes, as they can reduce swelling [source].

Sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana

This arrangement is alternate, even if from far away it does look a bit like it’s whorled. Leaves are simple, shiny, with smooth edges and a beautiful pointed elliptical shape.

Magnolias are believed to have existed before bees evolved, with fossils dating back as far as 95 million years. Their main pollinator is beetles, who eat the pollen and spread it while doing so [source].

Eastern black walnut, Juglans nigra

I didn’t realize that this was one of the exact trees we covered in class, but I’m doing it anyway. The leaves are pinnate, opposite, with 5-11 pairs of leaflets and one at the tip. Leaves are large, over 10 inches long, and shaped like a pointed ellipse.

Black walnut shells can be made into a black dye, and the black walnut is the most expensive nut native to the US, losing only to pecans [source].

Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra

It’s a bit embarrassing how long it took me to recognize what species this is. I blame how sad and dead the leaves are. The leaves are palmate, with long leaf stalks (~6 inches), and serrate margins, though the serration isn’t visible in this case due to leaf curling. I’m not sure how to classify arrangement here, as it appears there is a case of opposite and a case of alternate.

As an Ohio native I’ve heard pretty much everything there is to hear about buckeyes, but here’s what I already knew: the bark, twigs, and leaves emit a foul skunky odor when crushed, and the seed is poisonous to humans and livestock.

Red osier dogwood, Cornus sericea

Okay, technically this is a shrub. Which is why I took pictures of more than eight options… but three of them are shrubs so we have to use one. The leaves are simple and opposite, with easily recognizable red stems. This is the one picture taken outside of Kottman Hall instead of Jennings Hall, and it’s in a big garden area with plenty of shade that almost mimics a forest.

Native Americans used the extreme flexibility and durability of the stems to make baskets, originally on the west coast. The ‘osier’ part of the name actually comes from the French ‘willow-like,’ referencing the other favored basket making material at the time [source].

White mulberry, Morus alba

Leaves are shiny, heart shaped, alternating, have a toothed edge, and vary between simple and lobed. As far as the mulberry family goes, the shine on these leaves is the real identifying factor.

Fun fact: mulberry leaves in general, but particularly white mulberry leaves, are the main diet of silkworms [source].