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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Abies grandis - Grand Fir

The Grand fir is another uncommon sight in our warmer climate but, to a conifer lover, a welcome one. Growing up to 250' in its native range, we will likely to see them 50-60' tall by about 15-20' wide. They form a beautiful conical shape. Generally quite dense when young eventually a bit more open. You can see the one on the left is much fuller than the one on the right. Looks like a redwood if you look quickly at the foliage. This planting has two trees, right next to a redwood, and I suspect there was some confusion at planting time or when they were pulled from a nursery. Supposed to be three redwoods?

Leaves are evergreen, spirally arranged, linear, needle-like, 3/4 - 2" long, narrow, bright green upper surface, lower surface with 2 distinct white bands of stomates. The leaves on reproductive branches are very different than lower down on the tree. Those tend to form a very strong "V" shape. This feature is common to most firs and makes this characteristic useless for identification. The lower leaves form a single flat plane with the leaves spreading out sideways. 

The leaves on the top appear to be different lengths, alternating long and short.

Bands of stomates in 2 rows on the lower portion of the leaf.

Stems are yellowish-green initially, persistently smooth, with round depressions where leaves were once attached.

Female cones are found only at the top of trees. Growing 2-4" long, yellowish green or purple green when young turning brown at maturity and like all fir trees, the cones disintegrate on the tree, shedding the seeds, scales and bracts leaving behind only the thin central stalk. Bracts shorter than scales so you don't see them until they hit the ground. In this image you can see the scale on the left has its attached bract on its "back" while the one to the right is not showing a bract.

Male cones are yellow and found on the lower branches.

Bark on trees initially is smooth, gray or silver with horizontal resin blisters, becoming furrowed or flaked with age.

First, determine that it's a fir and not a spruce. Once you a certain its a fir, you have to look at how leaves are arranged on the stems and avoid the reproductive one. Look for the presence or obscene of stomatal bands on the upper surfaces, they are always on the lower surface, not the upper for this species. Look up for cones and down for cone scales and bracts.

Not at all easily. I used my trusted Pacific Coast Trees by McMinn and Maino.
Foliage is found in one plane, often called 2 ranked but I like the plane concept, or in 1 dimension. To use a key on these you have to find the resin glands with are inside the leaf, either along the margins or near the main vein. These are shallow and along the margin. To see the resin glands you need a 10X hand lens. Cut the leaf in half crosswise and then carefully squeeze the leaf with your nail while looking for where some resin comes out.

281 Pebble Beach Drive

Prunus campanulata - Taiwan Cherry Tree

The Bell-Flowered or Taiwan Cherry tree is a beautiful site in late winter to early spring. I recall seeing this one out of the corner of my eye and quickly circling around on my bike to see what the heck was so red in late winter. They are small deciduous flowering trees with beautiful deep red colored flowers growing to about 15' tall and slightly narrower with spreading branches. Not commonly seen. Blooms really really early, with very dark red flowers.

Same plant in the fall (have not seen any others), no fall color showing up by November though they should have some red color.

Leaves are deciduous, alternate, simple, 2-4" long, narrowly ovate to oval-lanceolate shaped, finely serrated margins, with a gland at the base of the leaf blade and dark green in summer. Deeply set veins.

Buds are clustered at the tips, sharp pointed, reddish in color.

Stems are smooth with lots of horizontal lenticles. This plant was grafted so the main trunk is something else.

Emerging just prior to or with the leaves, the 3/4" diameter flowers are in clusters of 2-6. You can see some of last years leaves and the new ones just emerging.

Produces small red fruit, 1/2" long. I have not seen them.

The popular 'Okame' Cherry has P. campanulata as one of the parents.

Foliage looks like any Japanese cherry, but smaller. I am basing my identification on the flower color, leaf shape and the tree was in full bloom in February.

411 Townsend

Cupressus sempervirens 'Stricta' - Italian Cypress

The Italian Cypress is a narrow, upright, tight growing tree that's been planted in gardens for hundreds of years.  This is a popular cultivar 'Stricta', one of several upright very narrow forms available in the trade. Trees are used to direct the eye in formal landscapes. Trees grow 20-40' tall x 3' wide, narrowing to a point at the top. I have seen them used as hedges, but its a lot of trees and they don't spread very widely, I think I would choose the species for that use. Gilman and Watson called them green telephone poles. I have seen them called Pencil Pines, but I don't think that's a popular common name around here.

Foliage is scale-like, medium green, very small, in pairs, lasting 3 or so years before falling to reveal the brown stem.  The branch sprays are rounded and held upright.

Reproductive structures are stroboli. Male are small, you can see them in the above picture at the tips of some of the branches. Females are also small, as seen below.

Cones are woody, dry, oblong, about an inch, generally not longer, with peltate scales, soccer ball like. Saw a website that called the cones "Ugly Nuts".

The taxonomy on this plant confuses me. Is there really a 'Stricta' cultivar? I have seen 'Glauca' used, and we have a 'Swains Golden' in the backyard of a neighbor but I am not sure what to make of the classic Italian cypress. Cal Poly suggests this is a naturally occurring botanical variety and should be called Cupressus sempervirens var. stricta

The specific epithet sempervirens means evergreen. All Cupressus are evergreen. Seems odd.

Misidentifiaction: If you are looking at the plant, not likely to be missed, but if you only have a twig, bummer. Determine it is a Cupressus, most have more or less rounded stems and most have the branchlets radiating out in all directions rather than flattened sprays. Differs from the species by being much more narrow.

114 Eureka Canyon Rd, as seen in the top picture.

Diospyros kaki 'Fuju' - Fuju Persimmon

The 'Fuju' Persimmon tree is much like the 'Hachiya' except the fruit are less pointed, and from an eating perspective, less astringent. Trees typically growto 25' with an equal spread forming a rounded, oval or umbrella habit.  Trees will reliably develop wonderful fall color.

Leaves are deciduous, simple, 3-5" long, ovate to elliptical shaped, entire margins, dark glossy green with distinct veins with a slight leathery texture. Very attractive in summer.

Especially attractive in the fall as they turn to yellow and orange.

Trees are monoecious, male and female flowers blooming in the spring to summer.

Fruit is a large orange berry, 3" wide, but about 2" tall, looking like a squatty apple. Retains its large green calix.

Stems originally slightly hairy, eventually without hairs. Dark rich brown with large lenticels.

Bark is great on all the persimmons.

As a persimmon I doubt it, but cultivars are another matter. Distinguishing between 'Fuju' and 'Hachiya' is easy if you see fruit, otherwise you are on your own. There are lots of 'Fuju' like cultivars available.

If you have a different cultivar in a public space I would be very interested in seeing them.


Corralitos Rd close to the Market, across the street is a row of both cultivars.

Santa Cruz
1104 King St
935 High St

Ilex × altaclerensis 'Lawsoniana' - Lawson HIghclare Holly

A pretty variegated variety of the hybrid holly, this plant does not seem to have its own common name. The common name Highclare holly seems to be used for all the cultivars of this hybrid cross. Oh well. I am going to make up one. Regardless of the name, this trees is evergreen, narrow upright and usually a pretty tight habit, growing 25' tall. Grown for its variegated foliage and pretty fruit.

Leaves are alternate, simple, narrowly ovate or elliptical shaped, spineless entire margins and yellow coloration in the center of the leaf. Coloration not uniform leaf to leaf.

Commonly reverts to all green leaves, so pruning is in order.

Flowers are dioecious, these being female. Small, white in clusters on new growth.

Fruit is a red berry, clustered in groups.

Stems are green. (This is from a branch with non variegated leaves.)

Bark is silver gray, smooth with some wrinkling at the branch collars.

Like so many other holly trees, this one is a hybrid between I. aquifolium x I. perado.

There are several other yellow variegated hollies, some of which the variegation is on the margins, others like these. I made my identification from all the descriptions indicating the leaves revert to green, which this tree does.

408 Gay Rd.

Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata' - Variegated Holly

The variegated holly is a wonderful addition to our evergreen dominated urban tree canopy. Growing slightly more rounded than the species, they will reach 30+ feet and form a broad, dense pyramidal shape. While this may appear to be multiple plants it is only one, with multiple leaders. They are often pruned formally, though they do grow that way naturally. I think my favorite variegated holly is the Hedgehog Holly. If you are going to have spines then really have spines.

Foliage is evergreen, simple, alternately arranged, elliptical, 2-3" long, dark glossy green in the center of the leaf, margins yellowish-white (silver?), slightly undulated, with or without spines. Fewer spines on slower growing branches. Very attractive year round, especially with the fruit. New foliage in spring should be somewhat pink.

Flowers are dioecious, all females on this tree. Small white in short clusters, in the spring. You may not notice them.

Fruit is a red berry like drupe about 3/8", can't say round because they are somewhat elliptical though the ends are not pointed.

Stems are green as you can see in the picture above.

Trunks are smooth, gray to silver colored. The canopy can be so dense you might not see the bark.

Assuming you are looking at a variegated holly, and the margins are yellowish you could be looking at one of a dozen cultivars. I am basing my identification on the most likely candidate to have been planted due to availability in the nursery trade. I am always up for  being corrected, so if you think I am wrong, let me know, it won't be the first time.

204 Appleton Dr
248 Moosehead Dr.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Taxodium distichum - Bald Cypress

The bald cypress is a large deciduous tree with a narrow pyramid-shaped crown, 50' or so in cultivation (much larger in wet soils, and with knees). Resembles Metasequoia but not as symetrical with lateral branches going in more than one direction. One of a few deciduous conifers. Uncommonly planted in Santa Cruz but there are lots on one condo landscape in Capitola.

Great orangish brown fall color.

Generally deciduous, linear (needle-like) shaped leaves, 1/2- 3/4" long, light green, sprially arranged but appearing 2 ranked on laterlal shoots. Side shoots are called deciduous branchlets and fall as a unit, they appear to be a single pinnately compound leaf.

Deciduous branchlets are alternately arranged but can be subopposite, differing from Metasequoia being strongly opposite, and the branchlets seem to point more forward on this species. Stems green on deciduous branchlets, brown on others, below you can see the main branch going left to right. The laterals, looking like compound leaves, are green.

Cones are composed of peltate scales forming a woody, brown sphere with rough surfaces, 3/4 to 1" in diameter, differing from Metasequoia by not having the "lips". They break apart when mature.

Trunks develop into a widened buttress with fibrous peeling bark. Trees are native to areas with standing water, some times called Swamp Cypress. To survive flooded conditions, they develop upright extensions from the roots called knees. They allow the plants to get oxygen to the roots. These are located in North Carolina.

These are at a homeowners association in the lawn, and the mowers keep hitting the tops. 

Without a doubt you will think its a Metasequoia glyptostroboides, but the branchets are alternate not opposite. You might encounter another Taxodium but not likely.

On Frederick in the lawn area the Capitola Knolls Condos (private property) there are 5-6 trees pretty close to the road.