Montag, 26. März 2012

Plant of the Day (March 26th, 2012) - Cedrus atlantica "glauca" (Endl.) Manetti

Today's plant of the Day is again a conifer. This time, it's Cedrus atlantica (Endl.) Manetti with the cultivar of “Glauca”. In Germany, we call this species “Blau-Zeder” or “Atlas-Zeder” while English speaking people, maybe know it as “Atlas Cedar”. It belongs to the Pinaceae family.

C. atlantica - habitus

It's a large, evergreen tree, which can reach a maximum height of 40 metres. The stem has 2 metres in diameter, while the tree crown is pyramidal. The bark of young trees is greyish and smooth while the bark of older trees is darker and more fibrous. Branches and needles are reminiscent of a larch (Larix decidua).

C. atlantica - Short shoots, long shoots and needles

The dark-green to blue-green (at the cultivar “glauca”) needles are arranged in clusters on short shoots, which are growing in alternatinf rows on the long shoots. Because of this. C. atlantica can be confused with the larch, but latter isn't evergreen.

C. atlantica - female cone (second year) at the end
of a short shoot

C, atkantica is monoicous with male and female flowers on the same tree at the end of short shoots. Male cones are yellowish and cylindrical. Female cones are growing upright and are barrel-shaped with a flat top. They have a greenish colour in the first year and a glossy, brown color in the second. They dissolve after ripening.

C. atlantica - the bark

This species is native to the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. (Algeria and Morocco), where the species forms pure stocks in heights between 1000 and 2000 metres. However, today it can also be found in many other parts of the world as ornamental tree. In this case, it's often the cultivar “glauca” with its charismatic, blue-green needles. The reason for is, that the cultivar tolerates frost better than the wild form.

Montag, 19. März 2012

Plant of the Day (March 19th, 2012) - Chamaecyparis pisifera agg. (Subclades "Squarrosa" & "Filifera")

Conifers, confiers and no end. After Thuja occidentalis, Xanthocyparis nootkatensis and Chamaecyparis obtusa comes the next evergreen tree from the Cupressaceae family. This plant is Chamaecyparis pisifera (Siebold & Zucc.) End. from the Cupressaceae family. In Germany, we call this species “Erbsenfrüchtige Scheinzypresse” or “Sawara Scheinzypresse” while common English terms are “Sawara Cypress” or simple “Sawara”.

C. pisifera  "Aurea" (Subclade: flifera) -
this cultivar has a shrub-like habitus

Again it's a tree, which can reach an average height of 50 metres (164 feet). Wild forms have a pyramidal habitus. Mature leaves are very pointed, scale-like (yeah it's boring, but this is typical for many Cupressaceae) and until 3 millimetres long. They are overlapping each other and are arranged in four rows per branch. The dorsal site is dark-green, while ventral side has a white shimmer.

C. pisifera "Boulevard" (Subclade: squarrosa) - habitus

The bark is reddish. It's also very fibrous and fells off in long, thin strips.

As with the most Cupressaceae, C. pisifera is monoicous with male and female cones. The male cones are brown and inconspicuous. Young female cones are looking like a green pea, which is also the reason for the latin name of the species (“pisisfera” means “pea-like”). With age, they get a dark-brown colour. Each cone consists of ten seed-scales The seeds are winged.

 C. pisifera "Boulevard" (Subclade: squarrosa) - branch

They are also many cultivars of C. pisifera ,which are looking completely different from the wild form. My photos e. g. show trees from the clades “squarrosa” and “Filifera”. The “filifera” cultivar is “Aurea”; named after the hanging, whip-like branches with their golden-yellow colour. The “squarrosa” cultivar is “Boulevard” with its blue-green leaves and the silver shimmering ventral side.

C. pisifera  "Aurea" (Subclade: flifera) - habitus

The wild-form is native to Japan, where “Sawara” (the Japanese name) is one of the “Five holy trees of Kinose” (like Chamaecyparis obtusa). It prefers fresh soils in temperate regions. However, C. pisifera is also a very popular ornamental tree (especially the wild forms) and can be found out of Japan in Parks, Gardens and on cemeteries.

Freitag, 16. März 2012

Plant of the Day (March 16th, 2012) - Thuja occidentalis L.

A new day and a new conifer. This time, I want to present you Thuja occidentalis L. from the Cupressaceae family. In English, this tree is known as “Eastern Arborvitae” or “Northern Whitecedar”, while German names for this species are “Abendländicher Lebensbaum” (Occidental Arborvitae) or “Gewöhnliche Thuja”.

T. occidentalis - habitus

It's a tree, which can reach a height until 25 metres. Normally, it has a single, straight stem but grows also multi-stemmed. The habitus is conical with a dense foliage from the bottom to top. The branches are very flat, as well as the yellow-green leaves, which are scale-like.

T. occidentalis - branches & leaves

They are covering the whole branch in a fan-shaped pattern and are arranged imbricated, so each leaf overlaps the neighbouring leaf a little bit. There are also glands at the base of each leaf; giving the foliage a aromatic apple-like smell. On the other hand, these essential oils (most of them are terpenes like Thujon) are toxic and may cause skin irritations and, after consumption, vomiting, gastrointestinal complaints and diarrhoea.

The bark of young trees is reddish and turning grey with ages. It's also very fibrous and fells of in long, thin strips.

T. occidentalis - female, ripe cones

As with the most Cupressaceae, T. occidentalis is monoicous with male and female coness. The male cones are reddish and elongated, while the female, ovoid cones, which you can also see on my pictures, are brown. Because a single tree is able to make a lot of female cones, trees can have a brownish look. Each female cone consists of two pairs of seed scales, which opens at ripening. So, open cones look a little bit like small, brown tulips. The seeds are winged.

Sometimes, T. occidentalis is confused with the similar looking Platycladus orientalis (L.) Franco (Chinese Arborvitae), which belonged to the Genus Thuja for a very long time. However, the cones of this species have a complete different look, the seed is not winged and the branches grows upright.

T. occidentalis - bark

As the name suggests, T. occidentalis is native to North America and can be found in the Area of the Great Lakes in Northwest USA and South Canada. It grows on basic and wet soils on lime and tolerates shading. So, it can be found e.g. in swamps, the shores of lakes, riversides, cliffs uplands and so on. In this regions, T. occidentalis is one of the main forest trees. Sometimes, the wood is used for fencing, posts and for log cabins.

Because of its Cypress-like apperance, T. occidentalis is also a popular ornamental tree for parks, gardens and hedges. So, today it can also be found all over the world. In this case, the plants are often cultivars; most of them dwarf forms, because they'll not become so high like the wild form, which is an advantage for gardeners.

Montag, 12. März 2012

Plant of the Day (March 12th, 2011) - Xanthocyparis nootkatensis (D. Don) Farjon & Harder (aka Cupressus nootkatensis D. Don)

The next evergreen conifer, which I want to show you, is Xatnhocyparis nootkatensis (D. Don), Farjon & Harder of the Cupressaceae family (Cypresses). In some literature, the species still belongs to the Genus Chamaecyparis and is called Chamaecyparis nootkatensis (D. Don) Spach. In other books, the species belongs to the genus Cupressus, where its name is Cupressus nootkatensis D. Don.
In Germany, we call this plant “Nootka-Scheinzypresse” or “Alaska-Zeder”, while common English names are “Nootka-Cypress”, “Yellow Cypress” or “Alaska Cypress.”

The name “Nootka” refers to the Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island in British Columbia (West Canada), where it was first discovered by Archibald Menzies in 1793.

X. nootkatensis - habitus

It's a tree, which can reach heights until 40 metres (131.2 feet), but there are also dwarf forms in mountainous regions, which are only a few metres high. The leaves of young trees (until the 4th year) are needles, while the leaves of older trees have the typical, scale-like form of the Cupressaceae. They have a green of yellow-green colour. There are also glands, which are responsible for the sharp smell, if you grind some leaves between your fingers.

 X. nootkatenis - foliage & female cones

The bark is greyish and with 1 to 2 centimetres very thin. Single strips fall off with age and give the stem a furrowed appearance.

X. nootkatensis is monoicous, so again, we have male and female cones (my pictures shows a female cone). Young female cones are green with red spots, while older cones are yellow-green with brown stripes. The male cones are longer as female cones and are yellowish with brown spots. The ripening needs two years, so it's not unusual to find young and older cones on the same tree.

X. nootkatensis - closer look at the foliage & a female cone

As already indicated, X. nootkatensis is native to the Pacific Northwest of North America and can be found in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and even in the Northern Areas of California.(Siskiyou Mountains). It prefers fresh, humid places and has no problem with nutrient-poor soils. So, it can be found e. g. at slopes, bogs, riversides and even avalanche chutes. Its distribution ranges in height to 1200 metres.

The wood is very valuable and use for carving and the production of furnitures. The Indians of the region used it to make totem poles and paddles for their canoes.

Freitag, 9. März 2012

Plant of the Day (March 9th, 2012) - Chamaecyparis obtusa agg. ("Nana Gracilis")

In the Article about my field Trip to the “Südfriedhof” in Herne, I've shown you some evergreen plants. Now, it's time to take a closer look onto some of this species. The first one is Chamaecyparis obtusa (Siebold. & Zucc.) Endl. from the Cupressaceae family. In Germany, we call this plant “Muschel-Zypresse” or “Hinoki-Zypresse” while in English, the plant is known as “hinoki cypress” or “Japanese Cypress”.

C. obtusa "nana gracilis" - habitus

It's a slender-branched tree, which can reach heights between 30 and 40 metres (98.4 to 131.2 feet). The bark is reddish to red-brown and very fibrous with until 3 metres (9.8 feet) in diameter. The scale-like leaves lie very dense on the branches. They are imbricate (overlapping) and have a dark-green colour. Another, distinctive feature of this species are the white marks at the ventral site of the leaves, which look like a fish-bone or an double-Epsilon.

The cones are spherical with eight to ten seed-scales per ripe cone. Each cone has nearly 8 – 12 centimetres in diameter. The seed is very small and winged. C. obtusa is monoicous, so there are female and male cones.

C. obtusa "nana gracilis" - ventral side of the leaves
(look at the white stripes)

C, obtusa is native to Japan, where it's called “Hinoki” or “Finuchi”. As one of the “Five holy trees of Kinose” it's a sacred plant in the Japanese culture. Wild plants can be found in the temperate, mountainous forests of Japan. However, C. obtusa is also a very popular ornamental tree (e. g. bonsai) and can be found in many gardens, parks and, as we know, cemeteries.

There are many different cultivars of C. obtusa, which can be found in Middle Europe or North America. My pictures for example, show the dwarf form “nana gracilis”, which is very common, because it grows more like a scrub and becomes not so high as the wild form. However, if you stop cutting the tree, it will start to grow as the wild form again.

The wood of this species has a high quality and is used in Japan to build shrines, temples but also for table tennis blades and masu. A masu is a small, wooden box, which is used in Japan to measure rice.

Freitag, 2. März 2012

Plant of the Day (March 2nd, 2012 ) - Crocus vernus agg.

After I've shown you Galanthus nivalis in my last Article, it's now time for another plant of the pre-spring. It's Crocus vernus agg. from the Iridaceae family. Typical English names are “Spring Crocus” or “Big Crocus” while in Germany, we call it “Frühlings-Krokus” or “Frühlings-Safran”

C. vernus - a stock

Because there are many breeding and hybrids of this species existing, we used agg., which means aggregate and describes a species with many subspecies.

It's a herb, which can reach a height until 25 centimetres ( 9.75 inches). The narrow and lineal leaves have no petiole and are between 4 and 8 mm wide. A distinctive feature is the white stripe on each leaf.

The inflorescence is a single, terminal flower with a purple perigon, which consists of two circles of tepals with three tepals per circle. The stamens and yellow, while the stylus is red. Flowering time is in spring.

The species is a Geophyte, so it survives the winter in form of an underground bulb.

C. vernus - flower

This plant is native to Southern Europe and wild forms can be found e. g. in the Mediterranean area or the Balkan. However, it has become a very popular ornamental plant for gardens and parks. Hybrids and breeding can be found all over Europe today.

I cannot say, which subspecies is on my pictures. It's possible a crossing between the subspecies Crocus vernus Hill ssp. vernus and Crocus vernus Herb. ssp. tommasinianus because the stylus is much shorter than the stames, which more a typical feature of C. tommasinianus