Friday, November 6, 2015

Ramble Report November 5 2015

Today's report was written by Hugh Nourse. Most of the photos that appear in this blog are taken by Don Hunter; you can see all the photos Don took of today's Ramble here.

Twenty-four Ramblers met under the Arbor at 8:30 AM.  Sue showed everyone the Guide to Invasive Plants by the Dept. of Agriculture, and told how to obtain either a hard copy from the Dept., or by downloading a free PDF. I believe you do this at the USDA Forest Service web site.  Catherine brought a box full of bur oak acorns which she distributed to anyone who wanted one.  It was an acorn with a very large frilly cap.

Hugh shared a reading from Andrea Wulf, The Brother Gardeners:  Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession, pp. 88-89.
This book is about the obsession of Peter Collinson to acquire plants from English Colonies to establish in his garden and how it spread to many other people.  One of his main contacts was John Bartram, who did a major business by shipping seeds and plants to Collinson and his many friends.  One of those was Lord Robert James Petre, whose estate, Thorndon, was over 1,000 acres.  Wulf discussed some of the plantings on his estate about 1741:

            “Over the previous few years there had also been much moving about of earth on the estate as canals and lakes were dug.  At the northern end of the park the labourers had raised two mounts, one of which was more than ninety feet high and planted with the choicest American exotics, re-creating the forest-clad mountains that Bartram described so vividly in his letters and journals.  There were 230 scarlet oaks, 120 American sycamores and 69 tulip poplars intermixed with 1,100 three-year-old Juniperus virginiana [eastern red cedar], which Petre had raised from Bartram’s berries, as well as many other evergreens.  At the very top of each of the hillocks Petre placed a cedar of Lebanon which, although incongruous to the American theme, provided a suitably grand crown.”

This was an appropriate lead into our walk today to show that even our Garden has many interesting native trees, as well as the exotics we have often talked about.  Our route today was first a short walk to the Magnolia plaza, then back to the Arbor and through the parking lot to the Southeastern Section of the International Garden.  We went over the Flower Bridge and through the Oriental section, and the Endangered Plant section of the Garden, from there to the Physic Garden and then to the steps down to the Native Plant Trail in the Heritage Garden.  We walked by the Orchard to the Flower Garden, returned to the Heritage Garden and then on to the Herb Garden, and ended along the stream in the International Garden.

We first stopped in the Shade Garden to see the Fraser Magnolia.  It’s leaves are similar to that of the Big Leaf Magnolia but the Fraser Magnolia is a mountain plant found in Georgia only in the Appalachian Mountains, where its cream colored flowers are spring magic in the mountain forests.  The Big Leaf Magnolia is in bottomland woods, wooded ravines, and rich wooded slopes.

Hugh with cucumber tree leaf
Our next stop was the entrance to the Southeastern Section of the International Garden.  The first tree here was the cucumber tree another member of the magnolia family.  We found its elliptical leaves on the ground; they had already turned brown and fallen off.  When looking at the ground I spotted a small snake racing through the leaves.  Dale caught it and identified it as a brown snake.  It was only about six inches long, and Dale
Brown snake
explained that it could reach a length of perhaps 20 inches.  Someone said that they had found two babies of a brown snake in their house, and spoke to a herpetologist about it.  They were congratulated on having them in their house because they eat slugs and snails. There was much further discussion of this snake.

Willow oak leaves 
From here there was an amazing diversity of native trees down to the Flower Bridge:  redbud, dogwood, southern magnolia, sweet bay magnolia, willow oak, black gum, swamp chestnut oak, pawpaw, pecan, Georgia oak, and bald cypress.  Only a week or so ago, we saw our first swamp chestnut oak, and now here it was where we have walked many times and not noticed it.  It is in the white oak group, which means no bristles on the leaves,  The bark is just like that of the white oak.  The willow oak is a coastal plain plant that I do not ever remember seeing, although I might have.  It hardly looks like an oak with leaves like willow trees.  One could mix it up with water oak that has a similar leaf sometimes.  But water oak trees will always have some with three lobes on the end of the leaf.  Furthermore, it is young saplings of water oak that look like this.  Many did not know that the pecan tree (Carya illinoensis) was originally from the Mississippi Valley, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  Cultivars have been created for the pecan orchards in Georgia and elsewhere.  Across the path was the Georgia Oak in which earlier this year we had seen the hummingbird nest.  This is native to Piedmont rock outcrops of South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.  Ninety percent of the outcrops are in Georgia.  This oak has not appeared at Rock and Shoals Outcrop Natural Area here in Athens.

At the top of the Flower Bridge we imagined a comparison of the big leaf magnolia’s leaves with those of the Fraser magnolia seen earlier.  We should have brought a leaf along to
Bigleaf magnolia leaf
compare.  They are very similar except the big leaf magnolia leaf is up to 39 inches long and 15 inches wide, rounded to lobed at the base, and the lower surface is white and has fine silvery hairs. The leaves of the Fraser magnolia are also lobed at the base, but the lower surface is green and they are only 10-18 inches long.  We could not see this so much today because the leaves were on the ground and brown. The last tree in the Southeastern section of the Garden was a huge river birch.  It still had the lovely textured bark that makes it attractive for gardens.  However, when they get much bigger the trunk loses its textured bark.

Burning bush leaves & fruit
Chinese witch hazel flowers
Corkwood leaves
In the Oriental section of the Garden we talked about the very tall crepe myrtle which has a fence around it to keep people from carving their initials in the bark. Billie, the curator, says she does not prune the crepe myrtle the way landscapers all over town do.  She calls that crepe myrtle murder.  The Chinese witch hazel was in bloom with flowers very much like our American witch hazel.  An interesting tree with red berries was the Korean sweetheart tree (not native).  Nearby was a shrub that I would call burning bush (Euonymus alata), but the only label nearby said Leadwort. However, Billie confirmed that it is indeed burning bush another plant from China.  Martha got us all to look up through the foliage because the light through the red leaves and berries was quite beautiful. Planted next to the huge dawn redwood (Metasequoia) was a straggly group of corkwood saplings, a rare plant native to southwest Georgia and northern Florida.  The wood is very light in weight, and has been used for fish-net floats and bottle stoppers.  Someone asked about another shrub as we were leaving the Oriental section.  The leaves looked like witch hazel, but looking at the sign we determined that it was snowball, a member of the Styrax family.

In the Endangered Plant Garden we stopped to look at the two Oglethorpe oaks.  This species was named in 1940 by Wilbur Duncan, botanist at UGA.  He identifies the tree as follows:  “ leaves widest at or near middle, the lower surface with stalked stellate hairs, the apex without a bristle tip, by gray bark…..Bark similar to that of Q. alba, scaly, sometimes becoming furrowed.”  It is also sometimes infested with chestnut blight.  I have actually seen the cankers on a tree near one of the places Carol and I worked as Botanical Guardians.  The tree is rare and found in poorly drained soils in the Piedmont of eastern Georgia, western South Carolina, and Caldwell Parish, Louisiana.

Atlantic white cedar cones
Amazingly there were a number of flowers still blooming in this Garden:  Georgia mint, ovate catchfly, and Georgia aster.  But our next stop was for the Atlantic white cedar.  It is very rare in Georgia.  Its habitat “is acidic freshwater bogs and swamps in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain.” (Kirkman, et. al. Native Trees of the Southeast. p. 121)  It looks like an eastern red cedar, but the twigs of the Atlantic white cedar are flattened, while those of the eastern red cedar are four-angled.  We saw the seed cones, tan with protuberances, compared to those of eastern red cedar that are blue-berry like.

Next  we stopped to observe the cedar of Lebanon, which has been topped by a storm. I reminded everyone that this was the tree that was placed on the top of 90 ft high mounts in the garden of Petre that was described in our reading.

In the Physic Garden I puzzled over a tree in the white oak group, but the leaves did not look right for a white oak.  While looking at the tree, I thought it might be a bluff oak, or bastard white oak.  But later when we looked at an overcup oak, I thought it could be an overcup oak.  I need to go back and look at the acorns to decide.  Today, Friday, November 6, I went back to pick up acorns, which I should have done.  The acorns are those of white oak (Quercus alba), so this tree is a white oak after all.

Bottlebrush buckeye
Blackgum -- note right angle branching
We passed the pawpaw patch on the way to the Native Plant Walk by the Heritage Garden, where we first found a red maple.  Some were concerned that this red maple did not have red foliage in fall, but in fact the red maple can have scarlet, orange, or yellow leaves in fall.  Beside it was a group of inkberry shrubs from the coastal plain. I have seen that shrub burn explosively in a prescribed burn at Ohoopee Dunes Natural Area.  Next came an American holly.  It was a cultivar, however, and had smaller leaves than one would see in the forest.  Black gum trees appeared along this walk.  Although the leaves were already down, the right-angle branching was diagnostic.  The buckeye with yellow palmate leaves was hard to identify to species until we saw the long raceme with the flower scars indicating it was  a bottlebrush buckeye.  The last tree on this Native Plant Walk was a puzzle.  It was not native.  We studied the leaves, thinking they were from an elm of some sort, when one of the participants said that it was a lacebark elm, or Chinese elm. Later I talked to the Curator for this Garden and her volunteers.  She confirmed our identification and the volunteers told me that Jeannette Coplin, the previous director of horticulture, had planted a number of these trees.

Asian persimmon - bigger but not as tasty as American persimmon
Walking back up the hill past the orchard, we stopped in the ellipse of the Flower Garden to see an Asian persimmon tree.  We could all see the huge  persimmon fruit on this tree.  Amazing.   Turning around, we passed the Japanese cherry trees and went through the Trustees Garden to stop at the red mulberry tree to talk about the attempt of the early Savannah Colony to produce silk from silk worms in red mulberry trees.  They brought in non-native white mulberries also for the effort, but neither worked, and the experiment failed. White mulberry trees have become an invasive plant.

On the other side of the pavilion was a Franklinia (Franklinia alatamaha) tree in a pot.  It is not doing very well in a pot, but one participant said that in places where cotton was grown there is something in the soil that causes a disease that kills this tree, so it has to be in a pot. This tree is now extinct in the wild.  It was discovered by the Bartrams (John and William) near Fort Barrington on the Altamaha River in South Georgia.  They took cuttings or seeds back to their garden near Philadelphia and planted it, sharing cuttings and seeds with many others.  In fact, all Franklinia trees in gardens and elsewhere are clones of the Bartram Garden trees.  Bartram named the tree for Benjamin Franklin.  There is speculation that the extinction was caused by collectors securing plants for English gardens.  The flowers and leaves are very much like loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), but the leaves of Franklinia are deciduous, whereas those of loblolly bay are evergreen. The fruit is different, and the flowers are nearly sessile.  It is also much smaller than loblolly bay.

As we rambled through the Heritage Garden, we stopped at the Fruitlands nursery square to view the hardy orange with its wicked thorns.  Hardy orange is interesting because it is used in creating hybrids for orange orchards.  Those who know Kenny Ridge, a subdivision out Tallassee Road, know that there is a wild patch of hardy orange in an old field that may have been planted by early farmers. The plants in this section of the garden were distributed by Fruitlands Nursery (on the site where the Augusta County Club is now).  Ed reminded me that Fruitlands also distributed the invasive Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis).  In fact the wisteria that has been cut down from the Arbor was from Fruitlands Nursery, which is why some horticulturists wanted to keep it and not cut it down.  Also in this square was Fruitlands tea olive, which was a hybrid that they created from (Osmanthus fragrans x fortunei). It was in bloom.

Rambling on toward the Herb Garden I talked about the live oak, a coastal plain plant that grows huge on the barrier islands.  Sometimes the branches go way out and curve down toward the ground.  It looked like the curators have pruned such branches from this tree.  Someone told me about a very large live oak called the “Angel Tree” that is on an island near Charleston.

Wax myrtle berries
The berries were prominent on the wax myrtles bordering the Herb Garden. Dale told us that the male and female flowers are on separate shrubs; it is dioecious.  Another said she could just imagine making candles out of the berries.  In the Herb Garden we stopped to admire the blackhaw viburnum, an understory tree in the Southeast.  Nearby was a native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), which had the familiar yellow strap-like flowers.  The one we have been tracking in the Shade Garden has not yet bloomed, perhaps because the latter is shaded by big trees, and this one in the Herb Garden is in the sun.  As we left the Herb Garden we briefly noted the horsetail and the prostrate rosemary.  I really like the way that the rosemary grows over the side of the wall.  They had to prune it back, but it is now starting to creep back over the wall.

Overcup oak acorn
Our last two trees were by the stream in the middle of the International Garden.  Here was another swamp chestnut oak. The first I had ever seen was one Emily showed me at Sandy Creek. A few rambles ago we found one in the natural areas of the Garden, and now here were two more!  One at the beginning of our ramble, and now one at the end of the ramble!  It says something about our seeing or lack thereof.  The other tree we stopped for was an overcup oak. It is one of the white oaks with epicormic branching along the trunk. Its distinctive characteristic is that the cap of the acorn nearly covers the whole acorn.

Time was up and many retired to Donderos where we occupied about seven tables pulled together for our snacks and conversation.


Fraser magnolia
Magnolia fraseri
Cucumber tree
Magnolia acuminata
Brown snake
Storeria dekayi
Cercis canadensis
Cornus florida
Southern magnolia
Magnolia grandiflora
Sweetbay magnolia
Magnolia virginiana
Willow oak
Quercus phellos
Blackgum tree
Nyssa sylvatica
Swamp chestnut oak
Quercus michauxii
Paw paw
Asimina triloba
Bald cypress (inc. weeping bald cypress)
Taxodium distichum
Georgia oak
Quercus georgiana
Big leaf magnolia
Magnolia macrophylla
River birch
Betula nigra
Crepe myrtle (Copper barked)
Lagerstroemia fauriei
Chinese witch hazel
Hamamelis mollis
Ginkgo tree
Ginkgo biloba
Korean sweetheart tree
Euscaphis japonica
Leitneria floridana
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
Styrax japnicus
Burning bush
Euonymus alatus
Oglethorpe oak
Quercus oglethorpensis
Georgia mint
Clinopodium georgianum
Ovate catchfly
Silene ovata
Atlantic white cedar
Chamaecyparis thyoides
Georgia aster
Symphyotrichum georgianum
Cedar of Lebanon
Cedrus libani
Bluff oak AKA Bastard white oak
Quercus austrina
Red maple
Acer rubrum
Ilex glabra
American holly
Ilex opaca
Bottle brush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora
Lacebark/Chinese elm
Ulmus parvifolia
Asian persimmon tree
Diospyros kaki
Japanese cherry tree
Prunus serrulata
Red mulberry
Morus rubra
Butterfly ginger
Hedychium coronarium
Ailanthus webworm moth
Atteva aurea
Eastern carpenter bee
Xylocopa virginica
Hardy orange
Poncirus trifoliata
Tea olive
Osmanthus fragrans
Live oak
Quercus virginiana
Southern wax myrtle
Morella cerifera
Black haw viburnum
Viburnum prunifolium
Prostrate rosemary
Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’
Overcup oak
Quercus lyrata

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