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Please help Identify this tree with red leaves

Atlanda, United States

These images are from Sweetwater Creek State Park close to Atlanta GA.
The upland forests there are mainly Chestnut Oak, and Pignut Hickory with a fair
representation of American Beech and plenty of Loblolly Pine mixed in.

That is the habitat on a hillside where this tree was photoed. A few hundred feet lower
no more than maybe 1/3 of a mile away, Sweetwater Creek comes through. Its fairly wet
even on hillsides since there is enough rain most of the time.

Leaves: The leaves shown in the images are on average 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 long and 1 1/2 wide.
They feel a bit more than averagely heavy and thickish, with a pollished top surface.

There are some closeups of the leaves and one shot of just a section of the trunk.

It appears to be a young tree. The trunk is 1 5/8 inch thick and about 9 feet tall.

Thumbnail by hput3 Thumbnail by hput3 Thumbnail by hput3 Thumbnail by hput3 Thumbnail by hput3
Seattle, WA

the red leaves remind me of Nyssa sylvatica. Did you notice any fruits on the tree also?

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

hput3:

While I appreciate the fine fall color and the inclination to pair this feature with Nyssa sylvatica, I think everything about your images and descriptions say Vaccinium sp.

Nyssa sylvatica will have more prominent buds - which your images do not portray. The small leaf size you describe also fits Vaccinium sp. much better than Nyssa sylvatica.

Your last picture of the bark iced it for me. I don't know any time that Nyssa sylvatica bark will ever look like that, but it is normal for Vaccinium sp.

Question then arises: which Vaccinium sp.? I'm not as familiar with all the available southern species in the Blueberry clan, but I'll venture Vaccinium stamineum for discussion purposes.

Atlanda, United States

Quote from vngarden :
the red leaves remind me of Nyssa sylvatica. Did you notice any fruits on the tree also?


I did dig around under the tree but found no evidence of any fruit. However there is quite a thick layer of leaves from the more profusely leaved larger trees all around so not so easy to make sense of what is in the near mulch under this particular tree.

I think you may be right in your guess, and that was also my guess. However I have no expertise. Just looked at a good number of black tupelu through google and thought it looked right

Atlanda, United States

Quote from ViburnumValley :
hput3:

While I appreciate the fine fall color and the inclination to pair this feature with Nyssa sylvatica, I think everything about your images and descriptions say Vaccinium sp.

Nyssa sylvatica will have more prominent buds - which your images do not portray. The small leaf size you describe also fits Vaccinium sp. much better than Nyssa sylvatica.

Your last picture of the bark iced it for me. I don't know any time that Nyssa sylvatica bark will ever look like that, but it is normal for Vaccinium sp.

Question then arises: which Vaccinium sp.? I'm not as familiar with all the available southern species in the Blueberry clan, but I'll venture Vaccinium stamineum for discussion purposes.


After using Google Images to get a look at quite a few Vaccinium stamineum leaves, It appears to me that in general the leaves are not the right ratio of length to width. In most of the images I looked at they appear longer compared to width than do the leaves I've posted.

Do any of that bunch attain heights like 9 feet... and now I've examined a few more of that same kind of tree nearby I see they can get 12-15 feet and I believe they are all youngish.

I've gotten better trunk pictures too, from a tree that appears a bit older than the previously posted trunk image. As you can see, its more shaggy looking than the previous post... (Sorry about the slight blurriness of 1 of them)

Thumbnail by hput3 Thumbnail by hput3 Thumbnail by hput3
Brunswick, GA

Looks like a typical Vaccinium arboreum (Sparkleberry or Farkleberry tree).
It is our tallest growing blueberry, but the fruits are small and not very tasty.

Atlanda, United States

Quote from bryan3 :
Looks like a typical Vaccinium arboreum (Sparkleberry or Farkleberry tree).
It is our tallest growing blueberry, but the fruits are small and not very tasty.


I see what you mean after using Google Images to find some Vaccinium Arboreum trunks like this one.

What about habitat? The samples I've found were universally on hillsides near the top. About 1000 ft above sea level and pretty rough terrain. Sort of rounded but very hilly. The soil is semi loose and fairly rocky. With quite a bit of the famous red dirt found in many parts of GA. The area is also covered with a pretty good layer of fallen leaves from neighboring Chestnut oak and some Sourwood.

One more descriptive item is that the twig and branch pattern seems really Chaoitc and busy looking. Thats one thing that helps you spot them among a forested background.

The second image is an attempt to show that aspect... but doesn't really convey quite the extent that is noticeable with human eyes.

Thumbnail by hput3 Thumbnail by hput3
Atlanda, United States

Quote from bryan3 :
Looks like a typical Vaccinium arboreum (Sparkleberry or Farkleberry tree).
It is our tallest growing blueberry, but the fruits are small and not very tasty.


Something else I forgot to ask: Should I be seeing evidence of fruit? Would there likely be any remaining berries on the trees?

Brunswick, GA

Vaccinium arboreum is famous among Vaccinium species for the wide range of habitats it can occupy. In Georgia it is everywhere from the coastal barrier islands to the mountains of the Blue Ridge. Poor soil is not a problem for it. I doubt you'll find much fruit this late -- maybe a tiny shrivelled black berry left behind here or there.
The "chaotic" twigs are very distictive for a tree in our area. From the look of those last trunk pictures you have a very old specimen there.

Beautiful, BC(Zone 9b)

Ok, I'm going to "throw a wrench in the spokes" - Lyonia ligustrina http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/197081/

Atlanda, United States

Quote from growin :
Ok, I'm going to "throw a wrench in the spokes" - Lyonia ligustrina http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/197081/


Biggest single difference I notice is that the veins, esp. the central vein are way bigger, than on the leaves I posted.

Brunswick, GA

Plus Lyonia ligustrina has much longer, proportionately narrower leaves with more sharply pointed tips.
See here:
http://people.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/lyli.html

Beautiful, BC(Zone 9b)

Ok, just thought I'd throw in something else from the Ericaceae that wasn't Vaccinium that showed up in the USDA plant database from that region that looked a bit similar.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

And look at all those dry capsules associated with Lyonia - of which there's no evidence in any of hput3's images.

Don't really think there is much more to say here, myself - other than hput3 should collect a branch or two, and take them somewhere to photo the details of bud, stems, leaves top/bottom, etc. appropriately.

All the various species mentioned in this thread can be separated by buds, I'd wager. When I get home, I'll snap a branch or two off the couple of unidentified native Vaccinium sp. that I was given that originated in western KY. For grins, I'll also grab some Nyssa sylvatica. Sorry, no Lyonia sp. handy at the Valley.

That way, I'll get bryan3 to ID my Blueberry family plants and point out some ID differences among these genera. Whee!

Atlanda, United States

Quote from bryan3 :
Vaccinium arboreum is famous among Vaccinium species for the wide range of habitats it can occupy. In Georgia it is everywhere from the coastal barrier islands to the mountains of the Blue Ridge. Poor soil is not a problem for it. I doubt you'll find much fruit this late -- maybe a tiny shrivelled black berry left behind here or there.
The "chaotic" twigs are very distictive for a tree in our area. From the look of those last trunk pictures you have a very old specimen there.


First let me thank you for your helpful posts.
The trunk you mention was something like 2.5 inches in diameter... maybe slightly more. Is that about a normal size for an older Vaccinium arboreum

Brunswick, GA

A 2-3" diameter trunk would be normal for an older Sparkleberry. The record is supposedly around 13" but I have never seen one that big myself. I have no idea how long that would take. Over a century, I'd guess.

And if VV has some mysterious Vaccinium plants, I hope they come with pictures of the flowers, because otherwise all the little shrubby Vacciniums look pretty much look alike!

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

I hope I do, too - know how it is to try to separate some of these species.

I'll check when I'm home - like I intended to over the weekend...

Atlanda, United States

Quote from ViburnumValley :
And look at all those dry capsules associated with Lyonia - of which there's no evidence in any of hput3's images.

Don't really think there is much more to say here, myself - other than hput3 should collect a branch or two, and take them somewhere to photo the details of bud, stems, leaves top/bottom, etc. appropriately.


"and take them somewhere to photo ....."

Do you mean to take them to a professional for photo work or just to take good pictures myself?

And then did you mean to post them here?

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I think VV just meant take a couple branches and bring them somewhere that you have proper lighting, etc to get some good pictures of them yourself showing those particular characteristics. You could hire a professional if you'd like, but that's definitely not necessary. And yes, post them here when you have them.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Yes, yes, yes.

It is often tough to get a good shot of some of these details "out in the field", as it were. A cut branch on the kitchen counter (with a neutral background, sometimes supplied by a towel or sheet) on the other hand - it can't blow around in the wind, or have bad shadows or rainfall, or or or.

That's all I meant. I'm not a professional at photography - far from it. But I know where my meager abilities can shine best. And know that postings on forums don't do a good job at expressing tone, emotion, sarcasm, humor every time. Bear with us that are blunt sometimes.

And absolutely yes! Post them here to help us help ID plants for you, and for everyone to learn from the process.

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