Ohio buckeye is one of the first trees to leaf out in spring, and its palmately compound leaves make it look somewhat coarse textured. But most of all, buckeyes are known for buckeyes! People often carry these shiny brown seeds in their pockets for luck.
What most people notice first about this densely branched, short-trunked, thorny tree are the weird, softball-sized, chartreuse, brainlike fruits, which often lie beneath the tree in abundance in autumn.
This is one of the easier oaks to identify. Note the acorns, which are almost completely covered by their knobby cups; the leaves, whose lobes are long and narrow, with wide sinuses between them; and (in Missouri) the location: these grow naturally only in wet forests along the Mississippi and Meramec rivers.
Ozark witch-hazel is a large native shrub that grows along dry, rocky streambeds in southern and east-central Missouri. The flowers are yellow, ribbonlike and bloom as early as January. In the fall, the seeds are ejected forcefully, to a distance of up to 30 feet!
“Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch” is an old song you might be familiar with—but today, surprisingly few Missourians know a pawpaw tree when they see one. This is a good tree to know, especially when the large, sweet fruit are ripening!
One of Missouri’s favorite nut trees is the pecan, which is a type of hickory—and hickories are in the walnut family! Originally pecan had a fairly limited, southern distribution, but today it is found in and out of cultivation nearly statewide, owing to the popularity of the nuts.
This medium-sized tree with the “alligator” bark is best known in the fall, when its orange, plumlike fruits come on. Be careful, however, to make sure a persimmon is ripe before you pop it into your mouth, or you could have a puckery surprise!
Pin oak is one of the easiest trees to recognize by its shape alone: It has a tall, straight trunk, an overall pyramidal or conical shape and, most notably, the branches on the lower third of the tree angle downward. Pin oak grows faster than other oaks and is used extensively for street and yard planting.
This toxic plant contains an oil in all its parts that, if you come into contact with it, can cause an intense skin reaction. This is no reason to stay indoors, however! Learn to recognize poison ivy, and sidestep it on your outings.
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