Trees of Southwest Virginia

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Southwest Virginia Project
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The focus of the following list of plant species is on plants which were of direct use to the settlers of Southwest Virginia. The emphasis in this list is on tree species, rather than herbs and/or crop plants. Eventually, articles on some of these species will be developed when specific reference to their use in the area is uncovered. Additional information about the development of this list is found on a separate page. Note: Reference to CaCO2 tolerance identifies tolerance of specific species for living in areas where limestone is the characteristic rock type.

Common name Variants CaCO2 tolerance Scientific Name Comment
American Holly American Holly, Possum Haw Low Ilex opaca cabinetry? Berries are consumed by white-tail deer and 18 species of birds. The dense foliage also provides cover and nesting habitat for various songbirds. Rarely a very large tree in modern times, but trees up to 100ft have been recorded.
Basswood Lyn, Linn, Linden, Lynn Low Tilia americana Wood is soft, easily carved, but shrinks considerably when dried; poor durability.
Black Oak Low Quercus velutina. Bark used for tanning hides
Cane Giant Cane, Southern cane, Switch cane Low Arundinaria gigantea A native bamboo, grows up to thirty feet, once formed nearly impenetrable thickets in Southwest Virginia valleys
Eastern Hophornbeam Ironwood (many spp called this) Medium Ostrya virginiana "Wood tough, close-grained, unsplitable. One of the strongest,

heaviest, and hardest of timbers. A cubic foot weighs over 51 lbs. Used for fence posts; also used where strength is required, as for use in making levers, hence the common name of ""Leverwo"

Paw Paw Pappaw Medium Asimina triloba edible fruit, used by early settlers to make bread and puddings.
Sourwood None Oxydendrum arboreum. Wood was used for tool handles, sled runners; The leaves are said to have medicinal qualities . The Flowers are attractive to bees, makes good honey
Sassafras High Sassafras albidum. Soft wood; bark, twigs, and roots used as a tea, medicinal; bark used to make an orange dye; bark also used as a cooking herb (as in "File Gumbo", though that’s a Lousiana usage
Black Cherry High Prunus serotina fine furniture, cabinets. Edible fruit, preserves and wine
Black Walnut High Juglans nigra.
Dogwood Flowering Dogwood Low Cornus florida
Red Mulberry Medium Morus rubra The wood is used in fencing & boatbuilding. The fruit is used for hog and poultry feed.
Eastern Redcedar High Juniperus virginiana. Used for fence posts, etc
Crab Apple Southern Crab Apple, Sweet Crab Apple X Malus spp
Common Chokecherry High Prunus virginiana.
Red Maple High Acer rubrum
Common Service Berry Serviceberry, Sarvis berry, Downy Serviceberry None Amelanchier arborea; many species of Amelanchier called "Service Berry"
Black Locust High Robinia pseudoacacia. A very durable wood. Often used as the base or lowest logs in log cabins.
Tuliptree Yellow-poplar, Tulip Poplar, Poplar Low Liriodendron tulipifera
Black Gum Black Tupelo, BeeGum None Nyssa sylvatica The wood is hard, cross-grained, and difficult to split, especially after drying. It is used for pallets, rough floors, pulpwood and firewood. Limbs and trunk off ten develop cavities, used for nesting sites for squirrels and others. Pioneer settlers use
White Ash Medium Fraxinus americana The wood is white, strong, and straight-grained. It is the timber of choice for production of baseball bats and tool handles. The wood is also favorable for furniture and flooring. [Wikipedia]
Mountain Laurel None Kalmia latifolia. Grows in dense thickets, over large areas. Some areas overgrown with laurel are referred to as "hells". Native Americans said to have used its leaves to make linament. Wood used to make spoons, (hence "Spoonwood") and other household utensils. Mostly
Allegheny Serviceberry Medium Amelanchier laevis
Shagbark Hickory Medium Carya ovata
Shortleaf Pine, Low Pinus spp Early settlers used the resin for pitch and tar.
American Beech Low Fagus grandifolia
American Chestnut None Castanea dentata
American Elm Medium Ulmus americana Dutch elm disease
American hornbeam Low Carpinus caroliniana wood is used for levers and tool handles.
American Sycamore None Platanus occidentalis.
Bitternut Hickory High Carya cordiformis. Early settlers used the wood for running gear on wagons. The Hickory has been heavily harvested for tool handles many years ago
Black Haw Stage Bush, High Viburnum prunifolium
Black Jack Oak Black Jack Low Quercus marilandica. The wood is very dense, and quickly takes the edge off tools. Burns with a very hot flame and makes a good heat source for wood-burning stoves; not desirable in wood fireplaces because the heat causes "popping", increasing the risk of external fires. [
Blue Ash X Fraxinus quadrangulata.
Box Elder Ashleaf Maple High Acer negundo Sap can be used to make maple sugar, though the sap is not as rich as that from sugar maple.
Butternut White Walnut None Juglans cinerea.
Chestnut Oak Medium Quercus prinus. Used for baskets and chair bottoms. Also used for tannin, furniture, and railroad ties.
Chinquapin Oak Yellow Oak High Quercus muehlenbergii
Common Persimmon None Diospyros virginiana. Edible fruit. During the Civil War Southerners used roasted persimmon seeds as a coffee substitute.
Cucumber Tree Low Magnolia acuminata.
Eastern Cottonwood Cotton Tree Low Populus deltoides.
Eastern Redbud Low Cercis canadensis.
Fraser fir Low Abies fraseri Restricted to upper elevations, eastern edge southwest Virginia (Tazewell and Grayson Counties)
Hackberry Medium Celtis occiddentalis.
Haw Bush Possumhaw Virburnum X Viburnum nudum
Honey Locust Medium Gleditsia triacanthos. Honey-locust wood is dense, hard, coarse-grained, strong, stiff, shock-resistant, takes a high polish, and is durable in contact with soil. It has been used locally for pallets, crates, general construction, furniture, interior finish, turnery, firewood,
Mockernut hickory High Carya alba C. tomentosa
Osage Orange High Maclura pomifera
Pignut Hickory High Carya glabra
Pitch Pine, Low
Post Oak Medium Quercus stellata. Used for wagon hubs and fence posts.
Red Oak Northern Red Oak, Spanish Oak Low Quercus rubra
Red spruce Low Picea rubens
River Birch None Betula nigra
Shellbark Hickory High Carya laciniosa
Silver Maple Medium Acer saccharinum Fast growing species; weak wood
Slippery Elm Red Elm Low Ulmus rubra Bark contains mucilage, when gound into a powder it can be made into a tea. "said to soothe the digestive tract" [Wikipedia]
Southern Red Oak Medium Quercus falcata.
Spanish Oak Scarlet Oak Low Quercus coccinea
Sugar Maple; Shugar Tree Medium Acer saccharum High sugar content sap, used for making maple syrup and maple sugar
Sweet Gum Low Liquidambar styraciflua.
Virginia Pine, Low
White Oak White Oak Medium Quercus alba Used for furniture, shingles and lumber. Its acorns were/are a principle component in many areas of the mast crop, and valuable for wildlife, pioneers and Indians for food.
Wild Plum American Plum High Prunus americana. Edible fruit, bark used in native american herbal medicine for astringent properties
Yellow Buckeye Medium Aesculus flava