Tree of the Week: Bladdernut

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Now we turn to a second plant identification discussion from arborist Carrie Paulus: this one of a native small tree or large shrub.  The above photograph is credited to Carrie.  She saw this small tree with husband Bill at Lake Hope State Park on Mother’s Day.  It is bladdernut, Staphylea trifolia.  It is not rare in Ohio woodlands, but often it is not noticed.


  Bladdernut eludes the usual mnemonics for native woodland trees with opposite leaf arrangement such as MAD BUCK (maple, ash, dogwood, buckeye) or BAMEV DOGWOOD (same along with tree-sized euonymus and viburnum species). The three-leaflet leaves are opposite on the stems on this shrub or tree (up to 15’) that grows in patches in shady woodland sites, preferably in somewhat moist soils.  


  Flowers are in bell-like clusters and creamy-white. The fruits, at first a light green, are papery “bladders” that eventually turn brown; you can shake the ripened fruits and they rattle around inside their bladders.  


bladdernut flower buds
Bladdernut flower buds at Zaleski State Forest in 2014


bladdernut flowers
Bladdernut flowers from Michigan in 2013


  Name Notes: Staphylea  is in the Staphylaceae, with one other genus, Dalrympelea, a genus native to Borneo, fake-news named for Clay Dalrymple, a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies back in the 1960s, who has the second-best career percentage for thrown-out baserunners of 48.8%. Also fake-news named for Abner Dalrymple, who in 1881 was the first major league baseball player to be intentionally walked with the bases loaded.  Obviously I do not know who the genus Dalrympelea was named for, but their were a number of Australian botanists named Dalrymple and a Dalrymple Expedition for plants, so...


bladdernut foliage in spring with old fruits
Bladdernut foliage in spring with old fruit bladders from previous year