February 2016 Plant Profile: Taiwania cryptomerioides

January 29th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Ray Larson, Curator

Coffin tree branchesWhile there is an abundance of early blooms, bright bark and fragrance elsewhere in the Arboretum this time of year (particularly in the Winter Garden and Camellia Collection), winter is also a time to appreciate conifers.  One of the best and most unusual for foliar effects in February is Taiwania cryptomerioides, the Coffin tree.  We have three accessions totaling 8 trees in the Arboretum.  There are two from 1969 (Accession #315-69 A&B), four from 1996 (Accession #119-96 A-D) and two in the old nursery from 1974 (Accession #465-74 B&C).  The 1969 accessions are just south of the main Sequoiadendron grove just off Arboretum Drive E, and the 1996 plantings are at the Newton Street entrance in the Pinetum.  Using the interactive map on our website is a great way to easily locate plants.

From a distance Taiwania cryptomerioides looks a little in habit like a young western red cedar or false cypress.  But closer in its visual affinity to Cryptomeria becomes more apparent, hence the specific epithet meaning “resembling a Cryptomeria,” or Japanese cedar.  The Coffin tree is the only species in the genus Taiwania and hence is known as a monotypic genus.  The common name comes from the practice of some native peoples in its natural range using the trees for making coffins.  A tree is chosen at birth to be carved into a person’s coffin in old age.   The grove in the Pinetum is part of the ½ mile long interpretive trail, and selected specimens along the route feature information about the tree and its uses in small interpretive panels.

Coffin tree grouping

In older forests, trees with trunks up to 10 feet wide are not uncommon.  However the species is listed as Vulnerable to extensive logging in its native range.  Populations 500 years ago were much more robust and widespread.  The species is long-lived, and some older populations in Taiwan are now protected.

Ornamentally the tree has much to offer.  Perhaps most striking is the array of blue-green needles along the somewhat drooping branches.  They look sharp and stiff, but are surprisingly soft and flexible.  The textural effect is outstanding, and the narrow shape accentuates the somewhat weeping effect.  It is most attractive throughout the winter and spring seasons, and new growth is a brighter blue.  Like many conifers, older foliage does turn a brownish yellow before dropping, and this is usually most noticeable in late summer and early fall.  It does best in full sun.  In its native lands, it grows in mid to upper elevations in areas of summer and autumn rainfall but drier winters.  Despite this, it seems to do very well for us with our dry summers and wet winters.

Coffin tree needles

Next time you are in the Pinetum or near the giant Sequoias along Arboretum Drive, be sure to look for this species.  The ones at the Newton Street entrance are probably easiest to find, and if you haven’t been to this minor entrance from the Montlake Neighborhood, you’ll notice is reached from a quiet street end.

Common name:  Coffin tree
Family:  Cupressaceae
Location:  Grids 19-4E in the Sequoiadendron section, Grids 33-7E and 34-7E in the Pinetum at the Newton Street entrance
Origin:  Taiwan, northern Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma) and Yunnan, China.  Populations elsewhere in south-central China are believed to have been introduced.
Height and spread:  A large tree, that can reach over 200 feet in the wild.  It is fairly narrow in youth, and in cultivation is slower growing.  Considered the largest tree native to Asia
Hardiness:  Cold hardy to USDA Zone 8

Coffin tree with sign

The Weekend Warriors of Centennial Woods

January 23rd, 2016 by Anna Carragee
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Jon and Martha Diemer, the weekend warriors of Centennial Woods.

Since the initial planting of Centennial woods in Union Bay Natural Area in 2007, in celebration of the first 100 years of the College of Forest Resource (now known as the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences), Jon Diemer and his wife Martha have become the weekend warriors. They devote every free Saturday to restoration work at the site. As the current UBNA Ranger, I was able to lend a hand and plant a few hemlocks and shore pines this past Saturday, January 16th, 2016. Along the way I learned about this great site.

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Jon doing a planting demo with a Western hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla.

Trying to find Centennial Woods? Centennial Woods is located on the western edge of UBNA, across from the former E-5 parking lot. (Labeled in green.)

CW map

Restoration work at Centennial Woods requires patience and perseverance because the site is threatened by tireless invasive species such as Himalayan blackberry, and also high mortality rates of planted trees. For example, from the initial school sponsored planting in 2007, only 40 of the original 400 bare root trees survived. The trees have also had some run-ins with mowers. A challenging site like this requires constant management to reach restoration objectives.

Despite having finished his Masters of Environmental Horticulture project and returned to a full time job other than managing UBNA, Jon has continued researching the best ways to control Himalayan blackberry and promote survival rates of the planted trees. Jon is trying out the efficacy of herbicide to control patches and shading out patches with a tarp (pictured below).

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Herbicide trial to eliminate blackberry.

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Shade trial to eliminate blackberry.

To increase survival rates, Jon is trying out different plant species native to more southern climates including redwoods from California! You can see one little redwood doing well in the picture with Martha and Jon. Species adapted to more southern climates are predicted to do well with the warming temperatures associated with climate change.

There are more trees that need to be planted this winter. If you are interested in helping out please contact me, Anna at carragee@uw.edu or Jon at jdiemer@uw.edu.

For more information, check out Jon’s MEH thesis Centennial Woods Restoration and Management Plan.

January Color Brings in the New Year at the Washington Park Arboretum

January 16th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Witt Winter Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum (January 11-24, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Witt Winter Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum (January 11-24, 2016)

Witt Winter Garden

1)  Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’
Midwinter Fire Dogwood

  • Though the species normally has red twigs and purple fall color, this outstanding cultivar has golden-yellow fall color followed by red-blushed, yellow twigs.
  • This dogwood is native to northern Europe into northwestern Asia.
  • Full sun is required to obtain the best winter stem color and this dogwood will slowly colonize an area via suckers from its shallow roots unless controlled.

2)  Corylus maxima  ‘Atropurpurea Superba’                Purple Giant Filbert

  • This excellent selection of the Giant Filbert produces long purple catkins in winter followed by large purple-red leaves in spring.
  • From what we have observed in the Witt Winter Garden, this specimen is resistant to eastern filbert twig blight, caused by the fungus Anisogramma anomala.

3)  Daphne bholua  ‘Jacqueline Postill’                Lokta, Paper Daphne

  • The specific epithet “bholua” comes from “bhulu swa”, the Nepalese name for the species.
  • Despite having a native range to 12,000 feet in the Himalayas, this species of Daphne is just as hardy in Seattle and requires a protected placement in the garden.

4)  Hamamelis x intermedia  ‘Winter Beauty’                Winter Beauty Witch Hazel

  • The north end of the Witt Winter Garden contains many species and cultivars of witch hazel.
  • Witch hazel flowers range from sulfur-yellow to carmine-red, while their fragrance can be absent, lightly floral or an intense citrus.

5)  Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna                Sweet Box

  • Sweet box is an often overlooked element of the Witt Winter Garden due to the diminutive size of its flowers, though no one can miss their intense fragrance.
  • Perfectly comfortable in dry shade, Sweet Box is an excellent choice for under-planting taller shrubs or small trees such as Hamamelis.

Coniferous Trees Highlighted in January Tours

January 6th, 2016 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

When the Olmsted Brothers first came to the Seattle area in the early 1900s, they were impressed by the size, abundance and beauty of our native conifers. Thirty years later when they designed the collection placement for the Washington Park Arboretum, they made a point of not removing our native trees, but placing the arboretum collection within a matrix of these native conifers. Eighty years later our park abounds with these tall stately beauties.

Many of the first conifers – or (mostly) evergreen trees – acquired in the collection were placed on Foster Island at the north end of the park; this site, while picturesque, turned out to be not so good for the needs of the trees themselves. Now much of our conifer collection resides in the Pinetum, which meets the needs of these plants as it is a site with better sun exposure and soil drainage. The rest of the collection is placed throughout the arboretum in areas suited to the needs of each species.

cupressusguadaloupensisCurrently the UW Botanic Gardens conifer collection includes 41 genera of conifers, comprising 216 species (not including subspecies or varieties) and approximately 2,974 individual plants. Our Sunday Free Weekend Walks in January will focus on this extensive conifer collection. With close to three thousand plants in the collection we cannot see all of them in the 90 minutes allotted, but our guides will show and talk about many of these amazing trees as well as what makes them unique in the plant world.

CguadaloupensisOne of the conifers in our collection that I have come to admire is the Cupressus guadaloupensis var. guadaloupensis, common name Guadaloupe Cypress. We acquired three of these trees in 1989 and two are still living; these plants highlight the conservation value of our collection.

Our Guadaloupe Cypress are not very big and sit unassumingly next to a path in the Pinetum. This tree caught my eye because if its exfoliating bark, which I had never seen on a conifer before, so of course I had to do some research on this tree. I’m glad I did, because it is an interesting story.

These conifers are endemic to Guadaloupe Island in the Pacific Ocean west of the California/Mexico border. Guadaloupe is a desert island and most of its moisture is received through ocean fogs rather than rain. The Guadaloupe Cypress has been cultivated since the 1800s but is rarely used in collections as it will not set seed outside its native habitat and is not necessarily resistant to cold temperatures. In the last century the tree became critically endangered in its native habitat due to a population of feral goats on the island.

A quote from The Gymnosperm Database at Conifers.org:

“For many years the species was severely limited by the grazing of goats, which reduced its population to about 3300 individuals on about 160 ha, with negligible regeneration. However, in 2005, under the leadership of Dr. Alfonso Aguirre Muñoz, the Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, A.C. succeeded in completely eradicating the goats from this large island and the trees and vegetation are now recovering. This is an uncommon bit of good news in the generally depressing landscape of rare conifer conservation.” Good news indeed.

Arboretum Map Upgraded for Smartphones

January 5th, 2016 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Have you even been deep inside Rhododendron Glen at the Washington Park Arboretum and wondered which direction you should walk to get to the Lookout Gazebo? Or maybe you were standing in front the most floriferous Hydrangea you have ever seen and can’t find the identification label? If you have a smartphone in your pocket then you can use the freshly upgraded map to see where you are and what plants are near by. You can also search for plants by name, keyword or accession number. Once you find a plant you love add it to your favorites. Next time you visit the Arboretum you can call up your list of favorites and see where each one is on the map.

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The map home screen shows gardens and the highlighted collections plus parking lots. Zoom in to see plant icons.

The map was originally created in 2014 as part of a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The map worked well on desktop computers, but was challenging to use on small smartphone screens. To improve the utility of the map for visitors actually in the Arboretum the Botanic Gardens contracted with SpatialDev, a local GIS development firm, to redesign the map to be responsive to handheld devices and to utilize the GPS location function built in to every smartphone. The redesign was partially funded by a gift from the Northwest Horticultural Society.

Want to try it? There is no app to install. Simply go to the Botanic Gardens website (uwbotanicgardens.org) and navigate to the Interactive Map under the Gardens tab. If you want to use it again why not make a shortcut and add it to your home screen?

 

The map works on Android and Apple smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers

January 2016 Plant Profile: a Study on Sticks in the Witt Winter Garden

December 31st, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

Bare Naked in a Public Garden (a Study on Sticks in the Witt Winter Garden)

By Roy Farrow

photoI love January. The dark, wet, oppressive weather of December is past as the temperature finally drops consistently below freezing. Underfoot mud disappears overnight and we awake to glorious sunshine again. Our world seems expansive and encouraging.

I’ve come to understand that an important part of this feeling is due to the presence of “dormant” plants in the landscape. Dormant, or deciduous, plants allow the light from our very-low-on-the-horizon sun to penetrate our gardens and thus our inner beings. I qualify the word dormant because a walk through the Witt Winter Garden demonstrates that indeed it can be the leafless that are having the most fun this time of year.

As I walked through the garden this morning, my attention was torn between the just-beginning-to-crawl-out-of-their-buds witch hazels (Hamamelis sp.) and the pair of ruby-crowned kinglets gleaning from the mosaic of moss and lichen on the stems. As the birds flitted, about my eye was stolen by the multitude of buds of the winter hazel (Corylopsis sp.) and catkins of the giant filbert (Corylus maxima ‘Atropurpurea Superba’).

Magnolia stellata with frost

Quickly demanding my attention was the early winter diva Viburnum x bodnantense, of which there are three cultivars in the Witt Winter Garden: V. x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, ‘Deben’ and ‘Charles Lamont’. Other Viburnum such as V. farreri ‘Candidissimum’ and V. grandiflorum forma foetens (synonym V. foetens) will soon be following with their own fragrant display of naked gaiety. All other fragrances will eventually be forced aside by the aromatically dominant winter sweet (Chimonanthus praecox), now just a bird’s nest of sticks.

Corylus maxima 'Atropurpurea Superba'

Speaking of sticks, I often thank Miss Nature for populating our world with the many plants, particularly willows and dogwoods which are simply decorous without any adornment beyond their own skin. No one can enter the garden without their eye being caught by the midwinter fire dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’). Once there, your eye may also appreciate the elegance of the bluestem willow, Salix irrorata with its white bloom and the bright golden-yellow of Salix alba ‘Vitellina’ behind it. Two newcomer willows to the Witt Winter Garden are Salix fargesii and Salix ‘Swizzle Stick’. The sleek, naked stems and large, red buds of Salix fargesii are difficult to describe without using the word “gorgeous” and the swizzle stick willow has an upright, contorted form which is colorfully impressive.

Salix 'Swizle Stick'

There are plenty more examples of naked fun to be enjoyed over the next few months, including the berries of Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, the playfully fuzzy buds of Magnolia stellata and the brief, but powerfully fragrant flowers of Abeliophyllum distichum. Last, but not least is the royal trifecta of stunning mature bark: Stewartia monadelpha, Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis and Acer griseum. Please visit repeatedly as the Witt Winter Garden is quite dynamic and no two weeks will display the same show. Enjoy the cold!

Betula albosinensis var septentrionalis

Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite'

Art Exhibit: Al Dodson Photography

December 29th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

AL Dodson photo of barkNorthwest native and trained botanist, Al Dodson, is intimately familiar with plants of all kinds. He loves photographing their more subtle and elusive qualities and bringing them to light so that the more casual observer might appreciate them. Bark, for example, can have beautiful color, texture, and pattern that often goes unnoticed.

Come view Al’s photos in the Library January 2 through February 12th.

Staff Spotlight: Annie Bilotta

December 28th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Annie_BilottaAnnie Bilotta is a Gardener, working at the Center for Urban Horticulture. She is originally from New York State, and she moved to Seattle in 1989. Annie started working at the UW Botanic Gardens in 1993 at the Washington Park Arboretum as a Gardener.  She moved over to the Center for Urban Horticulture around 2005.

Annie is especially fond of vegetable gardening. When not gardening, she can usually be found riding one of her four bikes, either on a long road ride or in the mountains.  In the rare times that she can be found sitting still, she likes to knit or weave baskets.

Annie has no formal education in horticulture and received her bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in music education. One of her favorite classes in college was instrument repair.  It wasn’t apparent to her then but she loves working with her hands. Annie became involved with UW Botanic Gardens when she persistently called for about two years and asked about getting hired on as a gardener at the Arboretum.  When a position opened up in 1993 she applied and was hired.

The thing she likes most about her job is the variety.  A typical day has her checking out the landscape and determining what the most pressing issues are.  Out of the many that she identifies as needing doing ‘Right Now’ she picks one and does it — if she doesn’t get sidetracked by something else.  The things she does the most, in order of frequency, are: weeding, mowing, irrigation, mulching, pruning, and planting. Annie also likes talking to visitors.

Annie’s favorite place at the UW Botanic Gardens is the Union Bay Natural Area because it is calm and peaceful, and has a lot of wildlife. What is Annie’s favorite plant? Well, right now she is most fond of sedums (tender and hardy succulents). She likes the color palette they provide, that they are somewhat drought tolerant, and they’re easy to grow.

Volunteer Spotlight: Richard Fleenor

December 28th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Richard_Fleenor_2Meet Richard Fleenor. Richard is a Rare Care volunteer with UW Botanic Gardens. He monitors rare plant populations on the east side of the state and usually takes one to two assignments a year. Rare Care volunteers live in all parts of the state of Washington, plus northern Oregon.

Richard grew up in Vancouver and loved playing in the woodlands surrounding their house as a kid. He remembers building tree “forts,” with no safety gear or ropes, in Douglas-fir trees 70 feet off the ground. He would hang on with his legs while he nailed in support beams and said there is no way he could do that now. Over the years he has lived in several different places in Oregon and Washington. His rangeland/plants career has taken him to the Willamette Valley in western Oregon, the high desert in SE Oregon, Okanogan County in North Central Washington, and the Columbia Basin.  Although, at first, Richard loved the forests on the west side of the state most, he has become very fond of the wide open spaces on the east side.  When he got the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Plant Materials Specialist position 7 years ago, he and his wife, Sue, moved to Medical Lake, just outside Spokane. Sue is also a Rare Care volunteer and accompanies him on rare plant monitoring assignments.

In the summer they like to bike, kayak, or just take walks in some of the natural areas near their house. Every summer Richard also takes a motorcycle trip with his brother, who lives in Vancouver. This year they plan on riding the loop around the Olympic peninsula. Gardening and yardwork seem to take much of his time as well. Other times of the year he likes to work on his jeep and motorcycle in their garage; and ski in the winter, although not as much as he used to.

Richard has a BS degree from Oregon State University in Rangeland Resources. He states that his favorite classes were range and botany classes. The range classes often included field trips where he got to spend a few days camping out in eastern Oregon. One trip in the fall, he recalls, he woke up to about an inch of snow on the ground.  The air was calm and crisp, the sky was clear, the landscape beautiful, it was awesome! The botany classes also had great field trips where you’d find yourself in a native prairie, old growth forest, or some other really cool place.

Richard became involved with UW Botanic Gardens when he was the Vegetation Ecologist for the Colville Tribes and wanted to learn more about rare plants in the area.  He heard that Rare Care was providing training for volunteers in nearby Omak, so he attended and has been monitoring plant populations ever since. That was about 13 years ago.

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A typical monitoring day usually starts early because he often has to travel far to get to the site. He gets as close as he can driving, then gets out the GPS unit to see how far and what direction he needs to go from there. Sometimes the site is right there and there’s very little walking/trekking involved. Other times, like the last time he went out, the site was still about three miles away and on steep unstable ground; you never know. If the plant process goes relatively quick, they identify the population, get a count (best they can), fill out a field data sheet, and head back. If they don’t find the plant, they usually look around until something sends them home (a thunderstorm, water runs out, Sue twists her ankle because she thought she saw a snake, but didn’t, etc.).

His favorite plant is Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa). To Richard it represents “the west.” It grows in relatively arid environments but can still attain heights of 200’ and be 5 – 6’ in diameter. It has a tap root to help it survive drought, is fire tolerant, and can live to be hundreds of years old. If you’ve ever seen these majestic beauties growing on a hillside amongst the bunchgrasses, he said “you’ll know what I mean.”

Deck the Halls

December 22nd, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist

Boughs used as winter decoration are often from plants in the genus Ilex. Many Ilex, or holly species are dioecious, meaning that male and female reproductive organs are separated on individual plants. This trait promotes cross-fertilization which increases genetic variability, but can decrease seed-setting efficiency.  Solitary individuals are unable to be pollinated, therefore it is necessary that male and female plants grow in close proximity or female plants will not produce berries.

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (December 15 - 28, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (December 15-28, 2015)

1)  Ilex cassine var. mexicana

  • This large, fast-growing evergreen is native to the southeastern coast of the U.S. as well as Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba.
  • A healthy specimen can be found in grid 13-3W, just west of Lake Washington Boulevard.

2)  Ilex verticillata  ‘Red Sprite’

  • This female, deciduous Ilex cultivar reveals large red berries when its leaves fall.
  • Our best patch can be found along the path in the Joe Witt Winter Garden planted next to the male pollinizer, Ilex verticillata ‘Jim Dandy’.

3)  Ilex opaca  ‘Boyce Thompson Xanthocarpa’

  • Evergreen tree that grows rapidly and assumes an attractive conical shape. As with most of the American Holly clade, this tree is cold hardy but not very wind-tolerant.
  • Berries can be crimson-red, yellow or orange.

4)  Ilex opaca  ‘Emily’

  • Found in the Pacific Connections Meadow plantings, this evergreen female boasts copious quantities of vivid red fruits, starting at a very young age.

5)  Ilex serrata

  • Located in the deciduous Holly clade on the west side of Lake Washington Boulevard, this holly spreads and suckers to form colonies.
  • Small red berries are revealed in late autumn after the leaves have fallen.