Fringe Tree

Aspen 2 New(Chionanthus virginicus)

In this time of turning back to native plants, you need look no further than this garden gem.  The Fringe Tree also called Old Man’s Beard, is named for its lacy threadlike flowers.  Few native trees give such a dependable, showy and fragrant flowering display year after year.

The Fringe tree can be grown as a single stem tree, but is more often found as a large multi-stemmed shrub.  Hardy from USDA Zones 3 to 9, it prefers full sun to partial shade with slightly acid moist soils.  Plants should be balled-and-burlapped or containerized when transplanting.

One of our most striking native trees when in bloom, both male and female plants produce flowers.  Only the females, however produce the small date-like fruits that ripen in early fall.  Both male and female plants have to be in close proximity to create the handsome dark blue fruits that are a favorite of game birds.

Slow growing and usually attaining less than 20 feet at maturity, the Fringe Tree is ideal for any patio or garden. Although they will not tolerate drought, they have traditionally had few insect or disease problems and hold up well against pollution.  This may be changing with the introduction of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).  This once trouble-free native is still a beautiful tree that you’ll be glad you turned back for.

May Tree of The Month: Dawn Redwood

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Dawn Redwood

(Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

This tree was known and named only through fossils, as it was believed extinct for thousands of years. It was discovered alive in 1941 in Hueph, China and brought to America and distributed to arboretums and botanical gardens around the world in 1948 by the Arnold Arboretum. Since then, this beauty has grown in popularity as fast as it grows in good moist soil.

Dawn Redwood, named for its apparent resemblance to the Coast Redwood, can easily attain heights of 90 to 100 feet tall and may grow as much as 5 feet in one year. They prefer full sun and a moist, slightly acid soil in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9. Hot dry regions or areas near salty ocean winds will burn the foliage or even kill this species.

Dawn Redwood is a conifer or cone bearing tree with small round cones on long stalks. It is also one of the few deciduous conifers, meaning it loses its needles in the fall. The pale green feathery needles emerge in late spring and turn darker in summer. In autumn, they become a rusty orange or reddish brown and in early winter shed to make a thick natural mulch.

In winter-time, the bark becomes a major focal point with deeply fissured trunks and exfoliating bark in strips of red and brown. A beautiful ornamental shade tree for any season, the Dawn Redwood has few pests or diseases of any consequence and requires little pruning. This fascinating and infatuating tree is a must for open spaces.

Arbor Day

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In 1872, a Nebraska pioneer and journalist proposed a holiday for planting trees called “Arbor Day”.  J. Sterling Morton moved from Detroit only to find that the Nebraska territory was a vast treeless plain.  Recognizing the need for windbreaks, lumber, fuel wood and shade, he immediately started planting trees.  Morton became Secretary of the Nebraska Territory and had his idea approved and a date was set for April 10, 1872.  In 1885, Arbor Day was proclaimed a legal holiday in Nebraska on Morton’s birthday, April 22.

Since the 1870’s, the other 49 states and many other nations have proclaimed an Arbor Day.  Today, we celebrate National Arbor Day on the last Friday in April, although some states do have a separate Arbor Day to coincide with the best planting season.

An important part of Arbor Day celebrations today involves our children.  Schools and civic organizations hold Arbor Day celebrations each year in an effort to not only plant trees, but to educate our youth about trees and all of the benefits we receive from them.

As a result of recent storms, many trees have been removed, but due to reduced municipal budgets tree replacement has not kept pace.  Trees anchor our landscapes and beautify our communities, but they take time to grow and provide their many benefits.  The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The next best time is now.

If you have questions about Arbor Day or tree planting, contact your local ISA member, Shade Tree commission or Forestry Service.  They can help you or your organization reach out to our youth and shape our future.  J. Sterling Morton once said, “Other holidays repose upon the past, Arbor Day proposes for the future”.  So think ahead, plant trees!

Blue Colorado Spruce

(Picea pungens glauca)

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These trees naturally occur only in the Rocky Mountains region at elevations of 6000 to 10,000 feet.  Since the 1860’s, however, it has become a very popular and often over used specimen plant.

Colorado Spruces come in every shade of green, gray and blue and can grow 25 feet wide by 120 feet tall in the wild.  In most landscape conditions, 20 feet by 60 feet is the norm.  They can live to exceed 100 years old, but in warm and humid climates they have an ornamental life span of around 30 years.

Colorado Spruces are easily propagated from seeds and cuttings and can be planted balled-and-burlapped or bare root with equal success.  They are grown from USDA Zones 2 to 7 in just about any soil type, provided it’s not constantly wet.  Plants need full sun to achieve their best growth and color.  Some common problems with Colorado Spruce are spruce gall adelgid, spider mites and cytospora canker, which kills the lower branches.

The stiff bluish needles are ¾ to 1 ¼ inches long and sharp to the touch.  The branching pattern is equally stiff with a narrow pyramidal shape lending itself to very formal landscape designs. Dwarf varieties such as “Globosa”, “Prostrata” and “Montgomery” are also very popular in the landscape and are more realistic around foundations as they only reach about 6 feet in height.

Eastern Red Cedar

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(Juniperus virginiana)

Although commonly called a cedar, it is actually a juniper. A native tree to every state east of the Mississippi River, it is perhaps the most adaptable of all evergreen species. They can tolerate salt, drought, heat, cold, and wind and even shed snow with little breakage. This species will grow in sand or clay soils, but avoids shady or swampy sites.

One of the first trees to invade fence lines and open fields, young trees grow fast and then slow down with age. Mature trees can reach 40 feet wide by 100 feet tall, although rarely exceed 25 feet by 60 feet tall. Red cedars self-seed, so freely pure stands often occur quickly in abandoned fields becoming dense havens for wildlife.

The foliage is needle-like on young trees to deter browsing animals and more scale-like on mature trees, but both types of foliage may occur on the same tree. The scales are usually dark green in summer and discolored to a yellow-green in winter. Females may appear reddish when flowering in spring, although these are not obvious in the landscape. They may also appear to be tinted blue in late summer or fall when 1/8 to ¼ inch diameter blue modified cones or berries ripen. The fruit is a favorite food of birds which helps the tree regenerate so prolifically. The fruits are also used to flavor gin.

Red cedars are also commonly used for fence posts, pencils, cedar chests and closets and Christmas trees. The aromatic red-colored wood is resistant to rot and pests, even repelling some such as moths.

Cutleaf Japanese Maple

(Acer palmatum dissectum)

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A beautiful slow to medium growing plant that will eventually reach 8 to 14 feet in height and almost twice as wide.  Native to Japan, China and Korea, they are commonly planted in North America in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8.  Used for centuries in Japanese gardens and for bonsai, they also hold their own in larger gardens and arboretums.

The trees take on a magnificent twisted and contorted branch pattern with old age that is unrivaled in nature.  Bark is a gray-brown and smooth.  Japanese Maples require very little pruning of deadwood only, unless being used for bonsai.

Winged samaras, commonly called helicopters, are the fruits of maples.  The samaras on Japanese Maples emerge right after the leaves and can be red or green, just like the leaves.  Leaves are 2 to 4 inches across and have 5 to 9 lobes and can be quite deeply cut.  Foliage can emerge red and turn green or varieties like “Atropurpureum” remain a crimson color all summer.  Fall color, depending on the variety, will be yellow, crimson or a dazzling burnt orange.

Japanese Maples prefer a rich moist soil with near neutral or slightly acid pH.  Young growth is sensitive to cold temperatures and in summer, the leaves will curl and burn on dry windy sites.  Partial shade and protection from drying winds, combined with watering, will cut down on damage to tender new growth.

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Paperbark Maple

(Acer griseum)

An outstanding ornamental tree introduced from China in 1901, extremely slow growing, the Paperbark Maple almost never outgrows its space.  Small gardens and patios are ideal settings for this tree, as a good view of this tree in winter from your window is a great way to enjoy it.  Planted primarily for its cinnamon-brown peeling bark, it is highly accentuated by winter snows.  The bark begins to peel off in thin sheets on second year wood, so you don’t have to wait long to enjoy it.

Paperbark Maples must be transplanted balled and burlapped or containerized and prefer a moist well-drained soil with a pH of 5 to 7.  It is sometimes hard to obtain trees larger than 5-6 feet due to transplanting difficulty.  Trees of a larger stature require great care in maintaining the root ball and command higher prices.  Slow to establish themselves, growing only 20 to 30 feet tall, they are worth the wait.

The leaves are compound with three elliptic leaflets about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide.  Dark green on top with soft silver hairs underneath, they become bright red and orange in the fall.  The foliage casts a light shade in summer and provide a late autumn splash of color into November.  Requiring little to no pruning and having no serious insect or disease problems, Paperbark Maple is a spectacular ornamental.

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Black Gum

Black Gum

(Nyssa sylvatica)

Pyramidal in habit when young, the Black Gum, Sour Gum, Pepperidge or Tupelo becomes a large spreading tree up to 90 feet tall and 45 feet wide in the wild, but usually half that when cultivated.  A native of the Eastern United States, Black Gum is typically found in moist rich soils along river banks or in flood plains.

A lovely naturalized tree, it can also be a nice specimen or street tree except in high pollution areas.  It is susceptible to leaf spots, rust, scale and leaf miner, but none seriously.  Also, it is rumored to be difficult to transplant because of a deep tap root.  This can be avoided by using small balled and burlapped or container grown plants.

Small green berries emerge in June and grow to about half an inch or less.  Turning bluish-black by September, the attractive fruit is a favorite of wildlife including birds, squirrels, foxes and bears.

Lustrous dark green leaves are 2 to 5 inches long and variable in shape.  One of the earliest trees to change colors in the fall, it is also one of the most consistent and beautiful. Black Gum fall foliage may be yellow, orange, red or purple or a combination of them all.

 

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Franklin Tree

(Franklinia alatamaha)

Discovered in 1765 by the famous Philadelphia botanist, John Bartram, this tree has an interesting history. While on an expedition with his son William near the mouth of the Alatamaha River in Georgia, he discovered the tree growing on the sandy banks of the river.  He took several specimens home to his gardens and named them after his good friend and fellow botanist and scientist Benjamin Franklin.  The tree was spotted by William Bartram in 1773 and by plant hunter John Lyon in 1803, but disappeared from the wild with no known cause.  It is speculated that a root disease was introduced by cotton in the southern plantations and it killed off all of the wild stock.  To this day, it is believed that every Franklinia in existence came from Bartrams private collection.

The Franklinia Tree is best moved when small and does best in a fertile well-drained soil.  Hardy from USDA Zones 5 to 8, it will grow 15 to 20 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide.  It is multi-stemmed with smooth gray bark broken by vertical white stripes.  Planted in full sun, flowering and fall color will be at its best.  The leaves are narrow and about 6 inches long turning a deep red in fall similar to the Flowering Dogwood.  Its 3 inch wide white flower has 5 petals and a yellow center, resembling a camellia.  Since Franklinias bloom in August when other trees are finished flowering, it makes for a beautiful lawn specimen.

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Bald Cypress

Bald Cypress

(Taxodium distichum)

The botanical name Taxodium means “like a Yew”, and although their foliage is similar, that’s all they have in common. The Bald Cypress is native only to North America and is found growing in pure stands from Delaware to Florida.  The plants are quite hardy and are planted from USDA Zones 4-10 as far west as Texas and north into Canada.

Conical in shape when young, Bald Cypress becomes a stately spreading tree, often flat topped and very picturesque with age.  It attains heights of 50-100 feet and a spread of 30-60 feet.  The light green needles are soft and feathery, lending itself to an exotic look in the north.  One of the few deciduous conifers, it loses its needles in the fall.  The summer foliage turns a rusty orange-brown in October and then virtually disappears into the lawn requiring little raking.

Bald Cypress will tolerate a wide range of soils, but prefers slightly acid and moist soils.  In its native habitat, it actually grows in the water.  Knobby wooden protrusions called “Cypress Knees” raise above the water from the root systems.  It is thought they are used to help the tree breathe by providing for gas exchange in wet or anaerobic soils.  Adding to their mystery, is the fact that they only appear when the tree is in extremely wet conditions.

Bald Cypress have few pest or disease problems and none are serious.  Its timber is also much sought after due to its water and termite-resistant properties.

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