Search This Blog


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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Manihot grahamii - Hardy Tapioca

Hardy Tapioca, or Cassava, is a hardy tropical plant added to landscapes for a cool tropical look. Reportedly dying to the ground in cold winters, sprouting up to a large shrub, flowering and fruiting in one season. In warmer climates it dies back to woody parts. Eventually growing with an upright to spreading habit. Reportedly a very fast grower, prolific seed producer and weedy in tropical areas. Potential of reaching 15 or 20' tall in a matter of a few years. That will be interesting to see as one was just planted down the street from me.

Leaves are deciduous, alternate,  palmately compound, almost round in outline, 8-10" across. The leaflets can be almost lanceolate or shaped like these, which I have no idea how to describe but some mention Snowflake like. Leaves have red petioles and the centers of the leaf is pretty cool looking. Most references say 11 leaflets, but plants don't read books. This is a great looking leaf, though the one above was not anywhere near as snowflake like.

Flowers are small, mostly light yellow, pendulous.

Thanks to Luen Miller for help identifying this specimen.

Pretty hard to miss the leaves if you can get close enough to them.

420 Clubhouse Dr. Brand new as of 11/14

Santa Cruz
212 Pennsylvania St

Betula pendula 'Youngii' - Young's Weeping Birch

Young's weeping birch is a fun dwarf form of the European Weeping Birch that's more shrub than tree but can still be a great focal point in a landscape. I have seen several that the skirt formed by the branches hits the ground and was used a fort by little kids.

This is a specimen from Bondnat Gardens in Wales. Its just leafing out so you don't get to see the skirt well developed.

Here is one from Capitola, showing off its winter outfit. White twisted bark! Very cool.

The leaves are alternately arranged, 1.5-3" long, ovate to deltoid or rhomboid shaped with serrated margins and the tip can be (but not always) very much acuminate.

Twigs are reddish-brown with lot of whitish glands.


Male flowers in a 2-3" long catkin overwintering, usually in 3's. Female emerging in spring, red color and erect on lateral branches. These are the male catkins, the image below is the catkins open.

If you are lucky you might come across a 'Trost's Dwarf'. Very finely dissected leaves.

Only if you are only handed a branch.

1743 Calypso Dr, While you are there you can see a weeping Blue Atlas Cedar and a Harry Lauders Walking stick.

205 Toledo, interesting driveway

Taxus baccata 'Standishii' - Standishii Yew

This variegated yew (Standishii Yew) is a pretty cool conifer if you like dwarf or variegated conifers. Grows much slower than the Irish Yew (Taxus baccata Fastigata), ultimately reaching 12-15' after many years. This one is over 50 years old and has gained some decent height and girth. Not commonly seen, and not likely to see more planted, yews are slow growing in the nursery and they are costly to buy retail. Often used in landscapes for vertical accents as seen in this image. My guess is there were several plants in the landscape and not just one.

The Standishii yew makes a great hedge or screen.

Leaves are evergreen, simple, linear or needle-like, spirally arranged, about 1" long, and variegated. The variegation may be the whole leaf of just the margins. A bit splotchy but nice.

Grown in the shade or at least on the shady side of the yew, the leaves are green except for yellow margins. These leaves belong to the yews being used as a screen.

This yew is a female cultivar and will produce a structure that looks like a berry, but is really a cone with a fleshy covering called an aril. More or less all parts of the parts are poisonous.

Yews are very easy to prune, they are tolerant of shearing, topiary or hedging.

Not much around looks like this. Hoping you have more to look at than a twig because there are way more shrubby variegated yews around, but not here in SC.

6500 Soquel Drive, Cabrillo College in the parking lot of the Sesnon House.

420 Semple St, several along the walkway to the house.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Eucalyptus cinerea - Argyle Apple

The Argyle Apple (?) really, what the heck does that mean, I know funny golf socks but, whats the apple? Okay, the evergreen tree grows very fast to 25-50' with a variable habit, upright oval but generally irregular with a full canopy. This one has been pruned heavily. Nice color foliage, nice bark. More common and more obvious than E. purverulenta. Also known as Silver Dollar Tree (but so is E. polyanthemum)

Juvenile leaves opposite, clasping the stem without a petiole, round to ovate, covered with wax. Intermediate taking on a narrowly ovate to lanceolate shape but still opposite.
Adult leaves alternate, simple, broadly lanceolate, 3-4" long, less than 1" wide, blue gray due to the waxy covering (glaucous).

Oddly enough, they bloom on juvenile and adult stems. Flowers in clusters of 3's, with a glaucous bloom, caps with a short point, showy bits are yellow stamens.

Fruit is a capsule, about 3/8" diameter, with a raised ring around the middle.

Bark is rough, fibrous, persistent, deeply furrowed, reddish brown

E pulverulenta. has very similar look but the truck sheds its bark.

1935 Dolphin Dr

Santa Cruz
209 Merced Ave - cut to 8' tall stumps, hate when that happens

132 Kenneth Dr, Nice big specimen

Cussonia paniculata sinuata - Mountain Cabbage Tree

The Mountain Cabbage Tree is a slow growing small tree, much like a dracaena with a swollen trunk designed to hold water. South African native, tolerant to about 20*F. Ours in the garden showed some cold damage at 22, losing some of the newer foliage.

Leaves are clustered at the tip of the plant.

Evergreen leaves are palmately compound, 2-3' long, mostly petiole, with 10 or so bluish green, deeply dissected or lobed leaflets.

Flowers after many years, yellow tiny flowers on a  woody stalk.

Trunks are deeply furrowed, usually single when young but later may be branched after initially flowering.

Can't think of anything

Cabrillo College Horticulture Gardens

Rio Del Mar Flats
216 Venetian

Santa Cruz
1310 Laurel Dr.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Diospyros kaki 'Hachiya' - Hachiya Persimmon Tree

The Hachiya persimmon tree is a beautiful small deciduous tree with wonderful orange fall color and tasty fruit. I do like the trees without foliage better than with but it is one of the nicest small trees for fall color. Growing to 25' with an equal spread forming a rounded, oval or umbrella habit, they are easily keep smaller if you want to harvest the fruit. This one has a sign saying "please don't pick the fruit".

Foliage is alternate, simple, elliptical to ovate shaped, entire margins, dark glossy green in summer and yellow to orange in the fall.

Persimmon trees are dioecious, male and female plants. Flowers in the spring, small green and hardly noticeable. My guess is that these cultivars are all females.

Fruit is a large orange berry, oval shaped, over 3". Large persistent calix. Picked firm and allowed to ripen.

Stems are lightly downy when young, eventually becoming glabrous.

Bark is wonderful, deeply sectioned into rectangular blocks.

Misidentification: Fuyu Persimmon, which looks just like this except the fruit are flatter, without the point on the bottom.

520 Townsend Ave (on the side street Granada)

Santa Cruz:
412 Windham