Unless otherwise noted, information contained in each edition of the Kansas School Naturalist reflects the knowledge of the subject as of the original date of publication.

Volume 4, Number 3 - February 1958


by Conservation Workshop Members

Front cover: TreesPDF of Issue



Published by
The Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia

John E. King, President

Prepared and Issued by
The Department of Biology, with the cooperation of the Divisions of Education and Social Science

Acting Editor: Carl W. Prophet, Department of Biology
Editorial Committee: Ina M. Borman, Robert F. Clarke, Helen M. Douglass, Gilbert A. Leisman, Dixon Smith

The Kansas School Naturalist is sent upon request, free of charge, to any citizen of Kansas.

The Kansas School Naturalist is published in October, December, February and April of each year by The Kansas State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas. Second-class mail privileges authorized at Emporia, Kansas.

MUCH OF THE MATERIAL used in this issue of The Kansas School Naturalist was prepared by the production section of the 1956 Workshop in Conservation. The Workshop, supported by a grant-in-aid from the Kansas Association for Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation, was a part of the 1956 summer session of the Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia. The committee in charge consisted of W. B. Fletcher, Downs; Mrs. Bert Brickell, Saffordville; Marie Schrock, Hutchinson; and Winifred Utter, Emporia.

PHOTOGRAPHS OF TREES for this issue were taken by Dr. Gilbert Leisman of the Biology Department, Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia. The plate of tree leaves on page 15 was prepared by Evan Lindquist, a student at Emporia State.


by Conservation Workshop Members


Everyone enjoys the beauty and comfort of trees. The brilliant splashes of color about the countryside when leaves have turned from their rich green color to the rich hues of red, orange, and yellow make a breath-taking sight, and on long, hot summer days a tree's canopy of leaves offers welcomed shade to one and all. During the early morning and evening hours the air is filled with the melodious songs of the many beneficial birds which make the' treetops their home. Truly, it would be a dreary old world if there were no trees.

Aside from their artistic values, trees serve man in innumerable ways. Materials worth millions of dollars are produced from trees . annually, including the lumber for our homes and fruits for the nourishment of our bodies. Trees benefit man in numerous other ways: their deep spreading roots help prevent soil erosion, their leaves form a thick, rich mulch and eventually return many essential inorganic and organic compounds to the soil, and trees planted into shelterbelts help break the force of the wind and provide shelter for wildlife.

In the early days of our country, much of the land was covered by some of the finest forests in the world. The value of these forests was, and still is, great; but the forests have become smaller and smaller. Although much of the timber was used to good advantage, thousands of acres of forests were wantonly wasted. If we are to insure that our future generations have sufficient trees, we must continuously practice wise conservation of this resource.


Although Kansas is generally regarded as a prairie state, to those people living in the extreme eastern tier of counties the prairie may seem somewhat far removed. For in these eastern counties much of the uplands is covered with oaks, hickories, and other trees which make up the so-called eastern deciduous forest. Fingers of this forest project westward along rivers and streams across most of the state. Even in extreme Western Kansas, cottonwood and willow can still be found growing along waterways.

Approximately 90 different species of trees, either native or naturalized, have been recorded for Kansas. Of this total, 24 are included in this issue.

Former Conservation Students Make Good

Projects of Lois Erickson and George Blodig, former students in C. F. (Gladdy) Gladfelter's Conservation class, appear in "Conservation Experiences for Children," Bulletin 16, U.S. Dept of Health, Education, and Welfare. Copies cost 75 cents and can be obtained by writing to the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office.

red cedar

1. RED CEDAR (Juniperus virginiana)

The red cedar is the only native evergreen found growing in Kansas, and it claims the distinction of being our hardiest tree. It will grow in practically any type of soil, but prefers a limestone soil. Red cedars reach a height of about 40 feet, and the thin reddish-brown to gray bark appears to be flaky on the surface. The wood is light and decay-resistant, and is used frequently for fence posts since the lifetime of a red cedar post is exceeded only by that of the Osage orange. Cedar wood is also used extensively in cabinet making and in the manufacture of pencils and cedar chests.

Cedars are often disfigured by a fungus, the cedar-apple rust. During the wet spring weather this fungus is evident as bright yellowish-orange gelatinous processes. The spores produced by these protrusions infect apple trees, and for this re3son thousands of red cedars growing near orchards were at one time destroyed.



2. PINE (Pinus)

Of all the American trees, none has played as important a part in the development of our nation as the white pine, which was unrivaled as a lumber-producing tree until well after the turn of the present century. Although the pines are not native to Kansas, they are grown extensively as ornamentals. These cone-bearing trees are characterized by their resinous wood and slender needle-like leaves borne in clusters of two to five leaves. A few species of pine which are grown in Kansas are white pine, jack pine, Austrian pine, western yellow pine, and Scotch pine.


silver maple

3. SILVER MAPLE (Acer saccharinum)

The silver maple is a native tree to the eastern third of Kansas, but it is cultivated in yards and parks throughout most of the state. This tree grows rapidly and often reaches a height of 60 feet when grown in a favorable location. Unfortunately, the silver maple is a relatively short-lived tree, seldom living longer than 50 years, and for this reason when used in yards should be planted with a mixture of long-lived trees which would eventually replace the silver maples. The name silver maple is derived from the silvery-gray undersides of the leaves. The wood of silver maples is used extensively in the manufacture of furniture.


wild plum

4. WILD PLUM (Prunus americana)

Found primarily in Central Kansas, the wild plum prefers a deep, rich, well-drained soil. Ordinarily reaching a height of only 18 feet, this tree sends up many sprout stems and is therefore usually found growing in clumps rather than singularly. During the early spring the wild plum is covered by many white, fragrant flowers, and in many areas the fruit is often sought for making plum preserves and plum butter.



5. OAK (Quercus)

Numerous species of oaks are found in Kansas. Among the more common are the bur oak, pin oak, red oak, blackjack oak, and chestnut oak. Unfortunately, the various species hybridize rather freely and, as a result, positive identification is sometimes a problem. Oak wood is heavy, hard, strong and widely used for many building purposes.

"Council Oak," located in Council Grove, marks the place where a treaty between the United States government and the Osage Indians was signed. This treaty, signed on August 10, 1825, led to the establishment of the Santa Fe Trail. Another historic tree in Council Grove is the "Postoffice Oak". Early travelers cached letters in a hollow at the base of this huge tree from 1825 to 1847.


DID YOU KNOW that there are over 300,000 different species of plants?


honey locust

6. HONEY LOCUST (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Although the honey locust is a native only to the eastern half of Kansas, it has been cultivated throughout the entire state. Considered as one of our hardiest trees, it exists under a variety of soil conditions. Boring insects are known to take a heavy toll of this tree after droughts, but normally the honey locust is free from insect damage.

Large, sharp thorns usually cover the honey locust, and its wood is strong and very durable. The inconspicuous blossoms are fragrant and rich in nectar, and the trees are frequented by bees when in bloom.


red mulberry

7. RED MULBERRY (Morus rubra)

The red mulberry, a native to Kansas, is the only mulberry to grow naturally in the United States. This tree, seldom exceeding 60 feet in height, bears a fruit which is palatable but is eaten chiefly by birds and squirrels. The durable wood of the red mulberry is sometimes used in boatbuilding, in cooperage, and for fencing.

The leaves of the white mulberry have served as food for the silkworm since the beginning of history. Through the years, there have been numerous attempts at substituting the leaves of the red mulberry for this function. The Jamestown colonists, noting an abundance of red mulberries growing near the colony, were probably the first to attempt this venture in this country. Unfortunately, all attempts to substitute the leaves of the red mulberry as food of the silkworm have proved unsuccessful.


Russian olive

8. RUSSIAN OLIVE (Elaeagnus angustifolia)

The Russian olive, a native of Southern Europe and Western Asia, has been grown successfully in Kansas for many years. It has withstood severe drought and extreme cold, a fact which is sufficient proof that it is a tree well adapted to the Kansas climate. The silverish leaves of the Russian olive impart a white color to this tree; wildlife utilize its fruit for food. When handled properly, the Russian olive makes an excellent hedge, and unlike other species used for this purpose, does not impoverish crops growing nearby.



9. PERSIMMON (Diospyros virginiana)

Persimmon trees are readily found growing in clumps in the southeastern tier of counties. These trees favor the heavy clay soils along the margins of timbered areas. When given room to grow, the persimmon develops into an attractive, long-lived tree which bears a plum-like fruit. When ripe, the skin of the fruit appears wrinkled and its pulp is mushy. If eaten before it ripens, the fruit will impart an unpleasant puckery taste, as anyone who has experienced this sensation can attest.

The heavy, hard wood is strong and is sometimes used for artistic purposes since the heartwood will darken with age. This darkened wood is often called American mahogany.


box elder

10. BOX-ELDER (Acer negundo)

A member of the maple family, the box-elder is sometimes known as the ash-leafed maple. This tree is native only to the eastern half of Kansas but has been cultivated throughout the state. The box-elder is a short-lived tree and has little, if any, economic value.



11. PAWPAW (Asimina triloba)

A small-sized tree, the pawpaw requires a rich soil and the shade of larger trees. It grows in abundance a long the streams of Eastern Kansas. When fully ripe, the banana-like fruits are edible and are enjoyed by many, but the wood of the pawpaw serves no practical use.



12. REDBUD (Cercis canadensis)

Although relatively small, the redbud is a valuable ornamental tree presenting a striking picture of beauty during the spring when it is covered with masses of rose-pink blossoms. The redbud is native to the eastern third of Kansas. A hardy tree, it is capable of adapting itself to nearly all types of soil.



13. HACKBERRY (Celtis occidentalis)

The hackberry is a member of the elm family. This sometimes surprises people since the fruit and bark of this tree do not suggest such a relationship. A hardy species, the hackberry grows successfully in nearly any type of soil. Since the wood splits easily and will rapidly deteriorate when in contact with the soil, it finds use chiefly in the manufacture of cheap furniture, boxes, crates, and barrel hoops. Because of its free-splitting nature, hackberry wood was widely used by the early pioneers as floor planking in their cabins.

The hackberry is characterized by a grayish-brown, warty (or ridged) bark with the cherry-like fruits borne in clusters on slender, drooping stems. "Witches' brooms" (or clumps of tiny, twisted twigs) frequently appear among the branches as the result of insect or fungal attack. In spite of this susceptibility, the hackberry is recommended for yard, park, and shelterbelt planting.


black walnut

14. BLACK WALNUT (Juglans nigra)

The black walnut, commonly found along the rivers and streams of Eastern Kansas, at one time grew abundantly throughout the hardwood forests of the United States. With the exception of the pecan, the black walnut is the most valuable of our American nut trees and one of the most valued of all our lumber trees. The beautiful wood, although light in proportion to its strength, never warps nor splinters and provides the finest cabinet wood in North America. Its nuts are also a valuable confection on the market.


shagbark hickory

15. SHAGBARK HICKORY (Carya ovata)

The shagbark hickory, or shellback hickory, as it is sometimes called, is so named because of the manner in which the bark becomes loose and is shed in large strips. Indeed, this tree can frequently be identified from a distance by the warped strips of bark hanging from the trunk.

Widespread throughout the hardwood regions of the United States, the shagbark hickory is found only in the eastern part of Kansas, for it prefers a deep, rich soil and protection from full exposure to the sun and wind. The hard, strong, durable wood is used extensively in the manufacture of tool handles, in certain agricultural implements, for fence posts, and for other uses too numerous to name here. The fuel value of hickory wood exceeds that of any other American tree with the exception of the locust. A cord of hickory wood is nearly equal in thermal units to a ton of anthracite coal. The smoke of green hickory wood is excellent for curing hams, and the nuts were considered a delicacy by the early settlers.


green ash

16. GREEN ASH (Fraxinus pennsylvanica var. subintegerrima)

The green ash, a highly recommended drought-resistant tree, is found growing throughout Kansas. Ash wood is heavy, hard, rather brittle, and perishable in contact with the soil; it is used most extensively in the manufacture of tool handles and baseball bats. This wood is ideal for the camp fire when a bed of hot coals is desired for broiling purposes. A long-lived tree, the green ash is widely used in shelterbelt planting and also for landscaping since it will develop if given sufficient room in which to grow.



17. CATALPA (Catalpa speciosa)

The catalpa is not native to Kansas, those seen growing about the countryside having escaped from cultivation. Because of its attractive white flowers and unique cigar-shaped fruits, this tree is often planted in yards for shade purposes. When properly seasoned, the light wood is durable in contact with the soil, and for this reason groves of catalpa are often cultivated for the production of fence posts.



18. SYCAMORE (Platanus occidentalis)

The sycamore, or plane-tree, is easily distinguished from other trees by the contrasting colors of its bark. The thin, scaly outer bark of the young trees constantly sloughs off, revealing the whitish inner bark During the winter, they can be identified from a distance by this white appearance.

Like the American elm, the sycamore is one of our largest deciduous trees and often reaches a height of 150 feet or more. Although attractive when polished, sycamore wood finds little commercial use. In Kansas the large branches of the sycamore are favorite meeting sites for the Great Blue Heron.



19. ELM (Ulmus)

The American elm, or white elm, which often attains a height of over 100 feet, is considered one of the largest deciduous trees growing east of the Rocky Mountains. Both the American elm and the red, or slippery, elm are Widely used for street and yard planting. Elms in general are long-lived (some reach an age of nearly 300 years) and are, therefore, highly desirable trees. The wood is extremely tough and is most frequently used in making crates and boxes.

Some of the elms in Kansas are of historic interest. Near Halstead the "Kit Carson Elm" served as a marker for the early prairie travelers, and the "Custer Elm" in Council Grove was named in memory of General Custer after he camped beneath its branches in 1867.



20. COTTONWOOD (Populus deltoides)

The cottonwood is honored as the state tree of Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. A rapid grower (under favorable conditions a cottonwood can increase its height by more than 10 feet during a single year), the cottonwood frequently attains a height of 90 feet. It is unfortunate that such a stately tree is so short-lived. Few seldom live longer than 75 years, for by that time their heartwood has usually been eaten away by' decay. The hollow center of these old trees often becomes the home of the Great Horned Owl or the Redheaded Woodpecker.

Adapting itself to a wide variety of soil conditions, the cottonwood is one of our most widely distributed trees. Years ago, serving as a source of lumber, it was probably one of the most valuable trees growing in Kansas. Although the wood checks and warps badly. it is suited for certain interior building purposes since it is as stiff as oak but as light as pine. For many years this wood was used for the manufacture of b3.rrel staves, boxes, crates, ironing boards, and excelsior. The demand for this lumber today, however, is relatively light.



21. WILLOW (Salix)

There are five species of willow which grow naturally in Kansas. Of these five, only the black willow reaches a large size. Favoring a sandy soil, willows are commonly found growing along the rivers and streams.

The light, soft wood has little economic value as lumber, but in early days the wood was used for making a fine charcoal which was used in black gunpowder. Because of its light weight it has been used in the manufacture of certain artificial limbs. Willows are also planted in great numbers along the banks of rivers to prevent soil erosion.


Osage orange

22. OSAGE ORANGE (Maclura pomifera)

Osage orange, our common hedge tree, was planted by early Kansas settlers to mark boundary lines and to fence in livestock. This tree, when planted closely in rows, serves well in the latter function since the stems and branches bear numerous stout sharp thorns which repel man and beast alike. In certain areas these hedgerows are no longer desired and are being removed, but they serve as excellent wind breaks and wildlife shelters when they are allowed to remain. The hard yellowish wood is very durable in contact with the soil, and is extensively used for fence posts.


no picture

23. HAWTHORN (Crataegus)

The hawthorn, sometimes called red haw, is a member of the rose family. This tree is usually beautifully 'shaped and therefore', is often used for ornamental purposes. The attractive white flowers are borne in small clusters which are frequented by the honey bee. The fruits resemble miniature apples and are a favorite food of birds and squirrels.


no picture

24. KENTUCKY COFFEE TREE (Gymnocladus dioica)

The Kentucky coffee tree is found in the eastern third of Kansas. Its heavy, durable wood is used most frequently for fuel and fence posts. Early settlers are said to have used the "beans" or seeds of this tree to brew "coffee". That they abandoned this practice whenever real coffee could be obtained probably emphasizes the fact that it was a poor substitution.

The flowers and graceful branching of the coffee tree lend a somewhat ornamental value to it. However, it is late spring before it leafs out and the leaves are lost after the first frost.

MANY USEFUL references on trees were included in the Children's Nature Books series, Vol. 1 No.3 and Vol. 3 No.2 of The Kansas School Naturalist.

DON'T MISS "Forgotten Country" Thursday, March 6, 1958, at 8: 00 p.m. in Albert Taylor Hall, K. S. T. C., Emporia. Bert Harwell, who filmed the dramatic life story of the sandhill crane for Walt Disney's "Vanishing Prairie", will be on hand to take the audience on a personally narrated tour of the Grand Canyon of the Little Colorado by color motion picture. The audience will be introduced to the wildlife and natural history curiosities of the region between the Pacific Coast and the Rocky Mountains.

This is the fourth in a series of five Audubon Screen Tour lectures. Plan to bring some of your students to see the wonders of nature. For additional information write to Carl Prophet, K. S. T. C., Emporia.


HARLOW, WILLIAM M. 1942. Trees of the Eastern United States and Canada, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York.

PEATTIE, DONALD CULROSS. 1950. A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

GATES, FRANK C., et. al. 1928. Trees in Kansas. Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Topeka.


The National Science Foundation has awarded the Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia a grant of $43,000 for an Institute of Science for secondary science teachers. The institute is/ open to all secondary school science teachers and will run from June 2 to July 12, 1958.

THE DELTA KAPPA CHAPTER of Beta Beta Beta, National Honorary Society in Biology, has identified and placed name plates on over 400 trees on the Kansas State Teachers College campus in Emporia. On these name plates are engraved the common and scientific names as well as the range of each tree.

DID YOU KNOW that bacteria are the smallest of all plants, and that, contrary to common belief, most forms of bacteria are beneficial rather than harmful to man?


Leaf Identification

The identification of trees from their leaves is a fascinating but sometimes frustrating pastime. The pictures on the opposite page are of the leaves of trees discussed in this issue. Before looking at the following key, see how many of the leaves you can identify.



1. elm

redbud leaf


2. redbud

mulberry leaf


3. mulberry

cottonwood leaf


4. cottonwood

pine leaf


5. pine

willow leaf


6. willow

sycamore leaf


7. sycamore

hackberry leaf


8. hackberry

Osage orange leaf


9. Osage orange

red cedar leaf


10. red cedar

box elder leaf


11. box-elder

ash leaf


12. ash

catalpa leaf


13. catalpa

pawpaw leaf


14. pawpaw

maple leaf


15. maple

oak leaf


16. oak

hawthorn leaf


17. hawthorn

black walnut leaf


18. black walnut

plum leaf


19. plum

hickory leaf


20. hickory

Kentucky coffee tree leaf


21. Kentucky coffee tree

persimmon leaf


22. persimmon

honey locust leaf


23. honey locust
Russian olive leaf 24. Russian olive



The following article appeared in The Emporia Gazette:

"An 'outdoor barn' will be planted in Southwest Kansas next spring to demonstrate how trees and shrubs can protect livestock during severe storms.

"The project will be set up on a 100,000-acre government land use project near Elkhart.

"Plans for the enterprise were made by representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, which has supervision of the land use area; the Kansas State College extension service, and the Soil Conservation Service.

"Because grass on the project is not winter grazed, it was decided to establish a wide windbreak rather than a V-shaped planting which is preferred for areas where cattle are grazed in the winter.

"The Elkhart project will show, the planners believe, how a 250-foot wide windbreak will pile up snow in blizzards and other extreme weather and provide protection for livestock.

"The planting will have 14 rows of trees. It will be 600 feet long and 250 feet wide. Fences will enclose the windbreak, which will be planted just north of the land use project headquarters.

"C. R. Biswell, district extension forester with the K-State extension service, said there will be one row of skunk brush (a sumac), five rows of Rocky Mountain junipers, four rows of ponderosa pines, three rows of Chinese elms, and one row of mulberry trees.

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