Woody Plants


Woody plants are perennials (plants that live more than two years) that create stiff structures above ground that they use throughout their lives. They may be divided into three groups: trees, shrubs and vines. Trees and shrubs are self-supporting. Vines climb on other plants or on inanimate structures like a fence or a wall. They all develop an inner "backbone" - wood - for support and a tough outer "skin" - bark - for protection. This strategy allows them to get closer to the sun. All plants are in competition with each other for sunlight, which is the energy source that they capture to power photosynthesis within their cells. Any plant that can grow taller than its neighbors will be more successful in this competition. A woody stem allows this.

In order to move water and nutrients efficiently within themselves, woody plants had to develop a plumbing system. Just underneath the bark is a layer of plant tissues that serves this function. This is actually the only part of the trunk that is alive. It is called the Cambial Layer (red arrow). Within the cambial layer, one kind of tissue transports liquids from the roots to the leaves. This is called the Xylem. Another transports liquids from the leaves to the roots and also laterally above ground. This is called the Phloem. As the plant grows it constantly renews both of these. Only the new xylem and phloem transport water and nutrients. The old xylem tissue becomes the wood and the old phloem tissue becomes the bark. Since this tissue creation is very slow in winter, the creation of new wood slows down, resulting in an annual growth ring (blue arrow) that can be seen in this cross-section of a Black Locust tree branch.

Other perennials, such as grasses, persist from year-to-year only in their root and root crown. They do not re-use in the following year the structures they build above ground during the growing season. They succeed through prolific seed-production, a greater tolerance for dry conditions and the ability to recover rapidly from a catastrophic environmental disturbance such as a fire or a flood.



Official State Tree of Kansas

The seeds of cottonwood trees have a cottony structure which enables them to blow long distances in the air before settling on the ground. This cotton-like fiber tends to collect everywhere when the seeds fall - massed in billowy piles on roadsides, insinuated in other plant-life and flower petals, and tickling noses.

Cypress Family (Cupressaceae)

Custard Apple Family (Annonaceae)

Pawpaw - Asimina triloba

Laurel Family (Lauraceae)

Sassafras - Sassafras albidum
Spicebush - Lindera benzoin

Birthwort Family (Aristolochiaceae)

Wooly Pipevine - Aristolochia tomentosa

Moonseed Family (Menispermaceae)

Snailseed - Cocculus carolinus
Moonseed - Menispermum canadense

Sycamore Family (Platanaceae)

Elm Family (Ulmaceae)

Red Elm - Ulmus rubra
Siberian Elm - Ulmus pumila
American Elm - Ulmus americana
Hackberry - Celtis occidentalis
Dwarf Hackberry - Celtis tenuifolia
Sugarberry - Celtis laevigata

Mulberry Family (Moraceae)

Red Mulberry - Morus rubra
Osage Orange - Maclura pomifera

Walnut Family (Juglandaceae)

Black Walnut - Juglans nigra
Pecan - Carya illinoensis
Bitternut Hickory - Carya cordiformis
Shagbark Hickory - Carya ovata
Kingnut Hickory - Carya laciniosa
Mockernut Hickory - Carya tomentosa
Black Hickory - Carya texana

Oak Family (Fagaceae)

White Oak - Quercus alba
Post Oak - Quercus stellata
Bur Oak - Quercus macrocarpa
Chestnut Oak - Quercus muhlenbergii
Red Oak - Quercus borealis
Pin Oak - Quercus palustris
Shumard's Oak - Quercus shumardii
Black Oak - Quercus velutina
Black Jack Oak - Quercus marilandica
Shingle Oak - Quercus imbricaria

Birch Family (Betulaceae)

Hazelnut - Corylus americana
Ironwood - Ostrya virginiana
River Birch - Betula nigra

Linden Family (Tiliaceae)

Basswood - Tilia americana

Tamarisk Family (Tamaricaceae)

Salt Cedar - Tamarix sp.

Willow Family (Salicaceae)

Silver Poplar - Populus alba
Cottonwood - Populus deltoides
Black Willow - Salix nigra
Carolina Willow - Salix caroliniana
Peach-leaved Willow - Salix amygdaloides
Sandbar Willow - Salix exigua
Prairie Willow - Salix humilis

Sapodilla Family (Sapotaceae)

Wooly Buckthorn - Bumelia lanuginosa

Ebony Family (Ebenaceae)

Persimmon - Diospyros virginiana

Currant Family (Grossulariaceae)

Wild Gooseberry - Ribes americanum
Golden Currant - Ribes odoratum

Rose Family (Rosaceae)

Wild Crabapple - Pyrus ioensis
June Berry - Amelanchier arborea
Cockspur Hawthorn - Crataegus crus-galli
Red Haw - Crataegus mollis
Black Raspberry - Rubus occidentalis
Dewberry - Rubus flagellaris
Highbush Blackberry - Rubus ostryifolius
Climbing Prairie Rose - Rosa setigera
Prairie Rose - Rosa arkansana
Wild Plum - Prunus americana
Wild Goose Plum - Prunus hortulana
Sandhill Plum - Prunus angustifolia
Black Cherry - Prunus serotina
Choke Cherry - Prunus virginana

Caesalpina Family (Caesalpinaceae)

Kentucky Coffee Tree - Gymnocladus dioica
Honey Locust - Gleditsia triacanthos
Redbud - Cercis canadensis

Bean Family (Fabaceae)

Leadplant - Amorpha canescens
False Indigo - Amorpha fruticosa
Black Locust - Robinia pseudo-acacia

Oleaster Family (Elaeagnaceae)

Russian Olive - Eleagnus angustifolia

Dogwood Family (Cornaceae)

Roughleaved Dogwood - Cornus drummondii
Swamp Dogwood - Cornus amomum

Christmas Mistletoe Family (Viscaceae)

Mistletoe - Phoradendron serotinum

Staff Tree Family (Celastraceae)

Wahoo - Euonymus atropurpureus
Bittersweet - Celastrus scandens

Buckthorn Family (Rhamnaceae)

Buckthorn - Rhamnus lanceolata
New Jersey Tea - Ceanothus americanus

Grape Family (Vitaceae)

Raccoon Grape - Ampelopsis cordata
Virginia Creeper - Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Riverbank Grape - Vitis riparia

Bladdernut Family (Staphyleaceae)

Bladdernut - Staphylea trifolia

Soapberry Family (Sapindaceae)

Soapberry - Sapindus saponaria

Buckeye Family (Hippocastanaceae)

Western Buckeye - Aesculus glabra

Maple Family (Aceraceae)

Sugar Maple - Acer saccharum
Silver Maple - Acer saccharinum
Box Elder - Acer negundo

Sumac Family (Anacardiaceae)

Smooth Sumac - Rhus glabra
Winged Sumac - Rhus copallina
Aromatic Sumac - Rhus aromatica
Poison Ivy - Toxicodendron radicans

Quassia Family (Simaroubaceae)

Tree of Heaven - Ailanthus altissima

Citrus Family (Rutaceae)

Prickly Ash - Zanthoxylum americanum
Hop Tree - Ptelea trifoliata

Olive Family (Oleaceae)

White Ash - Fraxinus americana
Green Ash - Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Blue Ash - Fraxinus quadrangulata

Bignonia Family (Bignoniaceae)

Trumpet Creeper - Campsis radicans
Catalpa - Catalpa speciosa

Madder Family (Rubiaceae)

Buttonbush - Cephalanthus occidentalis

Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae)

Japanese Honeysuckle - Lonicera japonica
Wolfberry - Symphoricarpos occidentalis
Coralberry - Symphoricarpos orbiculatus
Southern Black Haw - Viburnum rufidulum
Elderberry - Sambucus canadensis

Sunflower Family (Compositae)

Rabbitbush - Chrysothamnus pulchellis
Willow Baccharis - Baccharis salicina
Sandhill Sage - Artemisia filifolia

Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Bristly Greenbrier - Smilax hispida