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Recently Updated Plant Articles

Atlantic White Cedar

Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides)

Updated February 20th, 2024

An evergreen conifer native to acidic, sandy wetlands of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

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American Sweetgum

American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Updated January 26th, 2024

A distinctive tree with star-shaped leaves and hard, spiky fruits. Native to southeastern North America where it tends to be found on moist to wet sites.

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Post Oak

Post Oak (Quercus stellata)

Updated December 8th, 2023

A resilient, slow-growing oak usually found on drier sites with poor soil.

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Recently Updated Ecoregion Articles

cropland in the foreground, modern windmills in the background and some trees along the horizon
North America » Eastern Temperate Forests » Mixed Wood Plains »

Lake Erie Lowland

Updated November 15th, 2023

The southernmost and most populous region in Canada, with extensive cropland interspersed with small areas of wild forest.

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sparse conifers against a lush, colorful landscape with steep but low mountains in the distance under a bluy sky
North America » Mediterranean California »

Southern California Mountains

Updated November 10th, 2023

A steep, rugged region with higher rainfall than typical for Southern California, supporting open coniferous forests.

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uniform rows of cropland under a gray sky, stretching as far as the eye can see, with scattered roads and buildings
North America » Mediterranean California »

Central California Valley

Updated November 10th, 2023

A flat region in central California, dominated by high-intensity agriculture and facing severe environmental problems.

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Recently Updated ID / Comparison Guides (See All)

collage of Atlantic White Cedar and Eastern Redcedar

Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) vs. Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Updated December 6th, 2023

These two species are easily confused where their ranges overlap, especially on mature trees with scalelike foliage. The two can be told apart easily by closely examining their seed cones, and also by their bark. Young trees can be readily distinguished by their foliage. Redcedar is much more common and widely adaptable; it prefers drier sites. Atlantic white cedar is limited to acidic wetlands. Both are occasional in landscaping.

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collage of American Sweetgum and Castor-Aralia

American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) vs. Castor-Aralia (Kalopanax septemlobus)

Updated November 6th, 2023

These species are sometimes confused, as both have 5-7 lobed leaves with finely-serrated margins, both prefer moist sites, and mature trees of both species have bark with deep ridges and furrows. They are easily distinguished by the castor-aralia's thorns and sparse branching, or by flowers or fruit, and they can also be distinguished by leaf size and shape. Although both plants can occur in landscaping, there is little habitat overlap in the wild: sweetgum ranges farther south and better tolerates nutrient-poor, acidic, and/or poorly-drained soils, whereas castor-aralia ranges farther north, tolerates greater shade, and is more limited to sites with deep, fertile soils.

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collage of Eastern Bottlebrush Grass and Silky Wild Rye

Eastern Bottlebrush Grass (Elymus hystrix) vs. Silky Wild Rye (Elymus villosus)

Updated November 2nd, 2023

These species are sometimes confused, as both are among the earlier Elymus species both to bloom and distribute their seeds, their habitats largely overlap, and both are widely used in ecological restoration projects and occasionally in gardens. They are easy to tell apart by their spikes, and can usually be distinguished by foliage too. E. villosus ranges farther west and slightly farther south, whereas E. hystrix ranges farther north and tolerates more shade and more ground-level competition, but requires more leaf litter in the soil.

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