Group 2 Notes


Habit: mostly trees in this family, leaves opposite, simple and palmate or pinnately compound with 3-7 leaflets that are ovate to elliptical in shape, 3 bundle scars with clustered end buds.  Flowers can be perfect and imperfect producing monecious and dioecious species.  Flowers can be dangling or produced on spus shoots on the ends of branches.  Double samara fruit type.

Ecology: found throughout the northern hemisphere, often planted as ornamentals

Use: Acer saccharum Marsh. Provides maple syrup while other maples used for constructions such as cabinets.

Acer saccharum sugar maple

Acer platanoidesNorway maple



Habit: Usually shrubs and woody vines, leaves alternate and pinnately compound, single bud scale on terminal bud, milky or sticky sap preent in all individual members, plants can be monecious and dioecious, greenish flowers can be perfect and imperfect usually in dense panicles at the terminal twig, fruit is a berry.

Ecology: most members of this family found in the southern hemisphere.  Members in our region often prefer moist sites.

Use:  a lemonade like drink can be made from the fruit, but normally members of this plant are avoided!

Rhus typhina staghorn sumac


Toxicodendron radicans poison-ivy\


Habit: woody and non-woody members in this family, bi or tri-pinnately compound leaves, alternate.  Some members in this family have spines on the branches and/or undersides of leaves.  Woody members have large overlapping bud scales.  Flowers perfect and imperfect and often clustered in large compound panicles.  Fruit is a drupe or berry.

Ecology: members found throughout both hemispheres in a variety of habitat types. 

Use: Panax quinquefolius L. is an herbaceous member of this family that can bring in prices of $350-600/dry pound of root material.

Aralia spinosa Devil's walking stick

Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng)


Habit: primarily woody family, alternate, simple leaves often evergreen with bristle tips unique to some members, most members dioecious, flowers small with four green-white petals appearing in late spring for most species, fruit is a berry.

Ecology:  found throughout the northern hemisphere.

Use:  most members of this family are used for ornamental purposes as lawn shrubs.  Many cultivars exist within this family.

Ilex opaca American Holly



Habit:  Family contains both woody and herbaceous members.  One of the most mis-matched families in existence.  Leaves generally simple and alternating, but can be palmate or deeply incised in leaf shape.  Leaves can also be leathery and somewhat persistent in some members where spines are present.  Fruit is generally a berry.

Ecology:  Although some members of this family are invasive generalists in our region two important native members prefer moist shaded areas in well drained soils. 

Use: Berberine present in many members as an isoquinoline alkaloid with a bright yellow color that is used for dyes.  Medicinally it is now used to lower blood pressure and chloresterol.  Podophyllum peltatum L. Mayapple or Wild Mandrake and Caulophyllum thalictroides (L.) Michx. Blue Cohosh or Squaw Root are both native herbaceous species found in this family that were medicinally important to Native Americans and Mountain people in Appalachia. 

Berberis thunbergii Japanese barberry

Podophyllum peltatum May apple

Caulophyllum thalictroides Blue cohosh


Habit: woody family with leaves alternate, simple, stipulate, leaf margins can be serrate or doubly serrate, flowers monecious with both male and female catkins.  Male catkins are drooping and  appear in the late summer and mature the following spring; female catkins are upright in cones and appear and mature in the spring.  The female catkins develop into nutlet fruit with bracts.

Ecology:  most members of the family are shade intolerant and occur in moist sites as understory trees.  Fagus grandifolia

Use:  provides great food for wildlife and Betula lenta L.  was historically used to produce a birch beer for the mountain people in the Appalachian region. 

Ostrya virginiana Ironwood

Betula lenta Sweet birch

Betula papyrifera Paper Birch



Habit: woody family,  leaves opposite or whorled (rarely alternate), reniform to deltate, margin is smooth, simple or compound, no stipules.  False terminal bud.  Flowers perfect, fruit is a capsule enclosed in a “bean” like pod that is often present on the tree throughout the winter. 

Ecology: Most trees in this family prefer rich well drained soils.

Use:  historically used for fence posts, railroad ties, fencepost.  Catalpa sphinx larva that feeds on the leaves of the trees used for fish bait.  Ornamental. 

Catalpa speciosa northern catalpa

Habit: mostly woody plants that include vines, shrubs, and small trees. Leaves are simple to pinnately compound, opposite and usually linear.  Flowers normally create a flat-topped cyme inflorescence, fruit, usually a fleshy berry.
Ecology:  given the adaptive nature of most honeysuckles, members of this family can be found throughout the northern hemisphere. 

Use:  Elderberry has been clinically shown to contain sambucol which has been successfully used to enhance the immune system.  Unfortunately, many of the honeysuckles are used as ornamentals by people unaware of their invasive qualities.  

Lonicera japonica Japanese honeysuckle

Lonicera xylosteum European Honeysuckle

Sambucus canadensis Elderberry

Viburnum dentatum Arrowwood


Pictures and identifications courtesy of Dendrology at Virginia Tech

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