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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - August 09, 2011

From: Kent, OH
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Best of Smarty, Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification of tree on Kent State University in Ohio
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello. I am fond of a very large (wide) tree on a university campus in Ohio. I have tried many plant ID search engines to try to figure out what it is. It is at least 12 feet tall and at least that wide with deciduous green leaves that are about 4 inches long and 1.5 inches wide at widest. Leaves are same size all over the tree and leaf density is very high. Branches are very low to the ground and go all the way up in a giant ball. The bark is smooth and gray. There is one large trunk about 1.5 feet wide. At about 1.5 feet high the trunk splits into 25-35 trunks 2-4 inches wide. Leaves are simple and alternate but not regularly spaced. Veins are alternate, with the main vein from the stem going to the finely-pointed top of the leaf. There are 4 points on each side and the leaf looks like a miniature Christmas tree. I found a single fruiting body on a branch on a short green stalk that comes to a marble-sized ball that has four ridges near the top. The husk of this has light brown wiggly hair-like projections about 1/8 to 3/16 inches long curled over at the top and appears to have two seeds inside about 3/8 inches long and 1/4 inch wide, triangular shaped, but with deflated sides. The drainage in the area under the tree is often not good; yet, it obviously thrives there. It gets direct sun all day. I think I am in growing zone 5b. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.

ANSWER:

From your very thorough and detailed description, I think that the tree you describe is Fagus sylvatica 'Asplenifolia' (cutleaf or fernleaf European beech).  This is a cultivar of Fagus sylvatica (European beech) and, as its common name suggests, is native to Europe and not to North America.  There is mention of another cultivar, Fagus sylvatica 'Laciniata' that seems to be very similar, but I couldn't discover if the two names might be synonyms for the same cultivar.  You can see more photos by 'Googling' the botanical name.

The grounds department (or equivalent) of most universities keep an inventory of landscaping plants.   You might check with Kent State University Grounds Department to see if they have such a list and see if the cutleaf European beech is on it.

If this isn't your plant, you can visit our Plant Identification page to find several plant identification forums that accept photos for identification.

 

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