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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fraxinus velutina 'Modesto' - Modesto Ash

I have been watching this tree for years and never stopped to take a close look at it. But one day in late November I stopped because the fall color was spectacular and most ash trees with yellow color fades very quickly. The Modesto Ash has great color for a long time. Planted in large quantities in cites as street trees. Drought tolerant as well.

Foliage is deciduous, opposite, pinnately compound, 4-10" long, with (3)5-7 leaflets, each leaflet elliptical to lanceolate, 1-2" long, terminal leaflet larger than the others, with long petiolules (petioles of the leaflets), margins lightly serrated along the upper half of the leaflet, entire on the lower half or more. Upper surface medium green, lower may be pubescent, especially in the spring, or smooth later in the summer. Terminal leaflet is very wide in the middle of the leaf, narrowing to a long point, while the others are much narrower.

Not sure it makes much of a difference but the rachis and the petiolules are very much grooved.

Trees are males. Don't have any pictures.

No fruit as they don't have female flowers.

Stems are pubescent when young, smooth later in summer, brown with white lenticels. Terminal buds with dense copper colored hairs and clustered in 3's, with the center one much larger than the others. Prominent leaf scars strongly U shaped with the bud in the center of the U. Not as strongly U shaped as F. americana.

Bark is smooth and gray when young, turning rough and scaly with age.

Lots of ash trees look alike, this one has different terminal leaflets, often only 5 leaflets, holds its fall color longer than most. Around here you will see mostly Green Ash and the Evergreen Ash. If you are really unsure, wait till fall and into winter. The green ash has the bud on top of the leaf scar, and the evergreen ash is…. evergreen.

3070 W. Ledyard Way

Santa Cruz
1003 Morrissey Blvd on the corner with Park Way.

Bauhinia × blakeana - Hong Kong Orchid Tree

I first encountered this specimen while investigating Oceanview Ave. on a tip from a student about the huge trees. I was in Oceanview park and came out to find this poor little tree with only a few leaves, looking like it might be dead soon. Put in my notes that is was there but didn't think much about it. I went back in late November only to find it in bloom and doing quite well. I doubt it will reach its full potential here, it's reportedly damaged with temperatures of 20F. Trees reportedly semi-deciduous or completely deciduous, 15-20' tall and usually wider that tall, dome shaped. Looks a bit coarse with its long branches going in all directions.

Leaves are semi-deciduous or deciduous, alternate, simple, and more or less round in outline. The tip of the leaf is deeply lobed at least 1/3 of the way to the base. All the veins originate at the base of the leaf and radiate outward. Generally bluish green in color and often folded up like a clam closing or a butterfly.

Fragrant flowers appearing in fall into the winter and blooming until spring. Magenta color, five petals and sepals, 5+ inches wide, asymmetrical, long stamens with curving tip and female part even longer and more curved.

Stems some what zig-zagging at the nodes, smooth and green or brown in the fall, but new strong growth may have copper colored hairs. Vegetative buds look naked but I have not seen references to that.

I have read references suggesting the leaves can look like Cercis canadensis but deeply lobed at the tip. I think the give away that its not a Cercis is the leaves folded up and deeply lobed. Now the trouble begins, as there are more than on species of Bauhinia, B. variegata has smaller leaves, less shallowly lobed to almost not lobed, smaller flowers, but same color flower or very pale to almost white. The pictures I have seen of B. variegata in full bloom the flowers all look very light colored, almost white.

I am open to being schooled on this plant. Doubt the owner will read this and most don't know what is planted in their yards.

Santa Cruz
113 Oceanview Ave.

Ilex X altaclerensis 'WIlsonii'- Wilson Holly

The Wilson Holly is a beautiful holly tree. Trees are densely pyramidal, growing to 20' tall and 10' wide at the base but tapering to a slightly rounded point. Trees are female and produce very nice looking fruit.

Leaves are alternate, simple, broadly ovate, dark green, and about 3" long. Most holly trees have much narrower leaves. The central vein is yellow. The confusion starts with the margins. Most evergreen hollies have spines. However, many lose the spines when the tree is not growing vigorously. So you can find leaves that are entire, some slightly spined and others covering the margins with spines. Most mature examples have mostly all broad leaves.

Flowers are white, five petals, either males or females. Borne early spring or late winter.

Fruit is not a berry, according to botanist, it is a drupe. Either way, they produce large quantities in the internodal area of the stems.

Trunks are smooth silver-gray.

I really have a hard time with Hollies. I have never lived where they are dominate plants in the landscapes like in Oregon. There are so many hybrids with very little information on their identification. Looking though the literature I found a cultivar called 'Camelliifolia' and the name fit this to a tee. My interpretation of a camellia must be very different than the person naming that plant because those are quite narrow.

Had some wonderful help on the ID from Barrie Coate.

305 Clubhouse Dr

618 Burlingame Ave

Ficus dammaropsis - Highlands Breadfruit

This is perhaps the one of the most unique trees in Santa Cruz. The Highlands Breadfruit or the Dinner Plate Fig seems to be totally out of place with its huge tropical leaves and puzzling fruit. (Our mediterranean climate favors little leaves.) Even more curious is how it got there and why it has survived so long. I found a blog that suggested the plant came from San Lorenzo Lumber and was planted by the sister of a famous horticulturist here in Santa Cruz. Reportedly growing over 25' tall, this one really doesn't want to grow much taller than the building that's protecting it from the cold or sun.

Leaves are evergreen, alternate, simple, ovate, 12-18" long, deeply set veins, dark green upper surface, and very leathery. The leaves are eaten, as are the young shoots. Don't eat one on my recommendation. 

Flowers and fruit are an all in one package. Flowers of Ficus are arranged in a special type of inflorescence called a syconium, where the flowers are located on the inside of a swollen fleshy receptacle and appear to be closed at the tip. The "leaves" you see are bracts, like the inflorescence of an artichoke. When mature and ready for pollination, the bracts create an opening with a size and shape that fits only a certain type of wasp that can enter. The female wasp lays its eggs inside the fleshy receptacle, the larvae then more around, pollinating the flowers, which causes the fruit to enlarge. Lucky for us, many of the edible figs you like to eat are self pollinating.

Not likely around here. If you are a tropical plant collector, you might find some other figs that look very similar.

Santa Cruz
1001 Center St.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pittosporum crassifolium - Karo

The Karo tree is not commonly planted any longer, but I do like the silver/gray foliage in a landscape. May be mistaken for a large shrub but grows to about 15' with a spreading habit, usually multi-stemmed (okay a large multi-stemmed shrub). Reportedly a weed in California though planted and see so little here I doubt it will be an issue.

Leaves are evergreen, simple, alternate, oblanceolate to obovate, 2-3" long, leathery, a bit on the thicker side compared to other pittosporums, white hairs on the lower surface margins entire but revolute, may be gray-green or green. The name comes from the resemblance to a Crassula.

These leaves are more green than gray.

Beautiful flowers in the spring, 1/2"diameter, dark red to purple, in clusters of 6-10, each on a long peduncle.

The fruit are capsules, about the size of a nickel, covered with the same white hairs as the stems and leaves, opening to show an orange inner layer with black seeds.

Stems are also covered with the white hairs. Buds clustered at the tips.

Misidentification: Not sure, foliage is a key

Santa Cruz
322 Maple St on the Washington St side of the house.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fraxinus pennsylvanica - Green Ash

The green ash is one of the most commonly planted trees in the country because they're very fast growing trees and they provide shade in only a few years. We don't see as many here as in colder climates. As I said, they are fast growing, I have seen 3-5' of growth on some trees when planted as a bare root specimen. They will grow at least 2' a year when young and will eventually reach 70' with a broad asymmetrically rounded canopy. They are deciduous and will provide a weak yellow color that will last for a short period of time unless the weather is cold and they will fall overnight, sometimes still green. Most of the plants sold are male cultivars because females produce millions of fruit that will likely germinate.

Leaves are deciduous, opposite, pinnately compound, 6-9" long, with 7 elliptical to broadly lanceolate leaflets. Leaflets are about 1-2" long, having various amounts of serrations on the margins, may or may not have hair on the lower surface, but they usually do in the spring.

Twigs can be stout or thin on weak lower branches. Usually squared at the nodes. Buds are covered with hairs, copper colored, with the terminal being larger than the others. Usually three buds in the terminal location. Leaf scars are one key to correct identification. The bud sits on top of the semicircular scar.

Plants are dioecious, male and female. Developing early spring along with the foliage, usually slightly earlier. Many selections are males.



Fruit is a narrow, straight samara, borne in large clusters, green turning brown and falling   about the same time as the leaves.

Bark is smooth, gray but eventually darker, furrowed, scaly or ridged.

Ash trees can be tough to sort out. The bud and leaf scar are one important characteristic. Leaflet shapes, margins, bud color are other things to look at.

Aptos 125 Heather Terrace - Aegis Living

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Ellwoodii'

The genus Chamaecyparis is a fun group of conifers. They have a high propensity to develop mutations and as a result there are hundreds of cultivars of every shape and color. This is one of several forming the columnar habit. There are even dwarf selections of this cultivar. The Ellwood Cypress trees are fairly common in Santa Cruz, used mostly as screen or for vertical accent.  They grow to a bit over 10' tall and about 3' wide with a wonderful bluish green color.

The evergreen foliage is bluish when new, slightly more green as it ages. Chamaecyparis have scale-like leaves, however this has awl-shaped leaves with white wax on all surfaces giving it a bluish cast and an overall more prickly feel.

They do not "bloom" as they are a juvenile form so they do not set cones either.

So thats it, nice bluish-green screen with no mess.

Chamaecyparis 'Boulevard' has the same foliage look, though the leaves are longer than 'Ellwoodii' and the trees are very different looking.

323 Martin Dr.