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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Erythrina crista-galli - Cockspur Coral Tree

The Cockspur Coral Tree is a small deciduous tree with an umbrella shaped canopy reaching 15-20' in Santa Cruz, but you may find them smaller than that. The most obvious one in town is at city hall. Not a great specimen, was not sure why, but I looked at google street view history and the space was dominated by a Hollywood Juniper and this tree was being crowded out. When in full bloom it looks pretty nice. Waiting for the fall color… supposed to be yellow….



Leaves are deciduous, alternate, trifoliate, leaflets narrowly elliptical 3-5" long, margins slightly less than smooth, and spines on the lower portion of the main veins. Distinct swollen area at the base of the petiole, the pulvinus.



Flowers in the spring occasionally in summer and into fall, fragrant, showy bright red or pinkish-red, in long drooping panicles. Individual flowers are "pea-like" with a distinct elongated lower petal shaped like the keel of a boat. This is taken in December, winter here, but you can see the elongated lower petal. Looks like thrip damage maybe.



These are the flowers about to open.



Fruit is a brown pod, with constrictions between the seeds. Ripening in the fall. This is summer. You can see the constrictions.



Interesting seeds if you take the time to look at them.



Stems are green, stout, with nasty prickles. You can even see the tell tale pulvinus on the petiole of the leaf.



Bark is usually attractive, potentially deeply furrowed.




Tree is also known as the Coral Tree, Crybabytree, Christ's Tears.

Misidentification:
Erythrina caffra, around here anyway, if you are in a more tropical area you are likely to become very confused. These have narrower elliptical leaflets and are smaller trees.

Location:
Aptos
Cabrillo College Hort Department has one in back garden area, its low growing.

Santa Cruz
City Hall along Center St.

114 Myrtle St.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Wollemia nobilis - Wollemia Pine

Such a great story behind the "discovery" of another lost species of trees. Much like that of Metasequoia, the Wollemia pine was though to be extinct until 1994 when a park ranger west of Sydney Australia found a grove of what he thought looked like an Aruacaria. The plant was identified as a new species and named in honor of the park ranger.

The Wollemia pine grows to 130' in its native habitat but who knows how well or how tall they will grow in cultivation. Trees are reported to be fast growing, and sprout from the base making a grove somewhat like Sequoias. The branching is reported to be pretty unique as well, with lateral branching off the main stem to never develop laterals of their own.

Most likely will be a real novelty for many years, though if you want to spend some serious money on a small tree, you can find them. My guess is Dig Gardens would be a place to look. San Marcos Growers has sold them since 2008.

I have only seen two specimens, one at Cal Poly SLO and the other right here in Live Oak. Both seen below.





Leaves are evergreen, 2-5" long, narrow needle-like, sharp tipped, light bluish green in the spring or on new growth and turning more yellow green as they mature. Lower surface of the leaves are almost silver.





The leaves are arranged in a typical spiral fashion but all the needle curve from the stem and form two flattened ranks. Quite unusual to see four rows of leaves, two of them up like wings. Worth having just for that.



Younger stems are green with distinct leaf base scars.



Cones are produced at the ends of the unbranched laterals and from pictures look like others in the Auracariaceae. Not sure I will ever see one, so here is a link


Misidentification:
The leaves themselves are somewhat similar to Abies bracteata but nothing else is.


Location:
Live oak
1484 Chanticleer


Griselinia littoralis - Griselinia

Griselinia is a fast growing evergreen tree or shrub originating from New Zealand and is commonly seen as a hedge. Growing to 40-50' in its native habitat it likely will stay much shorter in cultivation. I don't think I have seen one outside of a botanic garden over 15 feet. They do make a great thick screen and can be pruned formally and hedged. Prefers coastal conditions.





Leaves are alternately arranged, simple, broadly elliptical to rounded, 4" long, thick, and light shiny green. Margins can be somewhat undulated.



There are several variegated cultivars.



Plants are dioecious, flowers are borne in the axils of the leaves in short panicles bearing 50 or more flowers. San Marcos Growers suggests that there is only one clone being grown in commerce and its a male.



Stems are an olive green color developing into a brownish bark with age.





Misidentification:
I don't know, the leaves look somewhat like Peperomias

Location:
Santa Cruz
1320 Mission St

Elaeaganus umbellata - Autumn Olive

I encountered a specimen of the Autumn Olive (Japanese Silverberry) while looking at some ash trees and thought, wow, who would have planted that? I am very familiar with the Russian Olive, Elaeagnus angustifolia, and its weedy weak wooded habits, but not with this tree. So a little digging and the only reason someone might have planted it could have been the fruit, tiny as they are, contain significantly more lycopene than tomatoes. The plant roots are colonized by a nitrogen fixing bacteria. They are also considered noxious weeds. A deciduous small tree or large shrub, they are more or less rounded.



Leaves are deciduous, alternate, simple, narrowly lanceolate to elliptical, 1-4" long, with somewhat undulated margins. In the spring they are covered with silver scales. The scales fall off the top of the leaf by summer but remain on the lower surface.





Flowers have a long tubular calyx that spreads at the tips and are often described as bell-shaped start shaped with four white sepals, about 1" long, fragrant, opening in the spring, in the axils of the leaves singularly or in groups.



Fruit is a small red berry-like drupe (?), with silver specks. Plants produce lot of them in the summer ripening in fall.





Young stems also completely covered with silver scales when young, becoming reddish brown by years end. Buds are also silver. Trunk is reddish brown and smooth, later becoming furrowed and peeling.


Misidentification:
My first thought when seeing this specimen was the Russian Olive but the fruit looks different.

Location
Aptos
300 Poppy Way

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd' - Emerald Arborvitae

The 'Smaragd' cultivar of the common arborvitae is a popular compact version of some of the old school pyramidal arborvitaes that grew too large and fell apart in the snow. Growing more conical than columnar, they make a nice hedge growing to about 12' by 5' at the base. Dark green for the most part. I was under the impression this cultivar was a hybrid, but I cant seem to find that reference any longer. The foliage resembles foliage in the oriental arborvitae group. 


Foliage is scale-like, in pairs, along an almost oval stem. Leaves tightly clasping the stem and not diverging at the tip like some others. New foliage is light green, older foliage is emerald green, which is the american name for this cultivar.



Branchlets are flattened, somewhat fan shaped and held partially vertical.


This plant is often called 'Emerald' Arborvitae in the USA, we can't pronounce foreign words very well…..

Misidentification:
Other arborvitaes that form columns. Look for the smaller size plant, nice color foliage, and the slightly vertical orientation of the branchlets.

Location:
Aptos
3595 E. Ledyard Way



Chrysolepis chrysophylla - Golden Chinqapin

This tree was totally new to me. I was out of my truck collecting some knobcone pine cones on Empire Grade that came down in a storm and I see this dark leaved tree with chestnut fruit. I look up for a chestnut tree but there wasn't one. And the fruit were attached. Okay, not hard to figure out what it is once I get home. The Golden Chinqapin is a relative of the chestnut (Castanea) but has male and female flowers in the same inflorescence. This is could be the botanical variety, Chrysolepis chrysophylla var Minor. Trees growing on poor soils, reaching 30 feet or less.



Leaves are evergreen, simple, alternate, lanceolate to narrowly elliptical, 2-5" long, folding upward along the main vein, boat keel like, about 1" wide, dark green upper surface and a golden lower surface.



Plants are monoecous, males at the ends of the catkins. Male flowers creamy white at the ends of the branches forming in middle summer, July here.



Male flowers at the ends or in this picture, at the top of the inflorescence and the females near the bottom.  Looks like my deck needs painting…..



 Really, red berries? Nope, galls formed by the Chinquapin Flower Wasp.



Fruit is a nut, enclosed in a spiny husk (cupule = cup-like structure like those surrounding the base of an acorn), very much like that of a chestnut. These are three-angled to round, but caught a nice triangular one,



Spins on the outer husk variously branched and very sharp. One distinction between this and a chestnut is that there are separations between each of the 3 nuts.





Here is the fruit on the left with a chestnut on the right.



Stems yellowish turning red, yellow star shape pith.



Bark smooth when young, developing over time to become deeply furrowed.



Synonyms: Castanopsis chrysophylla

Misidentification:
A chestnut due to the fruit, but the leaves look totally different.

Location:
Santa Cruz
5187 Empire Grade

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'

Not really a tree, anymore than other woody monocots, but they are still worth discussing. Often called the Red Albyssinian or the red banana its popular because of its reddish coloration that ranges from dark maroon to green with tinges of red. Grows locally to 8-10' tall. Creates a great tropical effect in the garden. Reasonably hardy and available.



Leaves are paddle-shaped, 8-10' long, with penni-parallel venation, petioles are red as is the midrib and usually the leaf margin. Underside is usually much more red. Petiole base is clasping around the stem. Leaves are a major source of starches and along with the stems are ground up and used as food source in Ethiopia.





Flowers after many years. Reportedly flowers then dies. Seems right, the one in the picture with the fruit cluster was gone the following year. Said to take 4-7 years to flower, and unlike true bananas, they rarely set offshoots.




"Trunk" is not really a trunk but appears to be one. Remnants of leaf base covers the stem making what they call a pseudostem.


Misidentification:
Not sure

Location:
Aptos
514 Humes Ave, two actually, a small one in the driveway and a larger on in the front courtyard.
Across the street is the species, not the red cultivar.