Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I was looking for self-grafts such as on this fused beech stem. Grafts "take" better the closer the genetic relationship is of the two parts. Oaks and beeches are difficult to graft because of tannins that enter into the cuts. I wonder if this graft has taken or if there is a layer of cells that are dividing the merged stems?

Here is a cross-section of a birch polypore or tinder conk I found in the Arboretum. Five thousand years ago, humans carried this fungus with them as either a medicine or as a fire starter (or both). The material above the pores was used to carry smoldering embers or was shaved into fine filaments as a fire starter.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Winter Season Weather

Weather Watch

Dan Herms reports PJM rhododendrons pushing a few blooms the week of the OTF Conference and Show and the OSU Green Industry Short Course in early December. Jim Chatfield reports forsythia blooming on December 13 in Rushville in central Ohio. Denise Ellsworth notes Dame’s rocket wildflower/weed blooming the next week in northeast Ohio. Dan Herms, in central Kentucky with his parents and family at Christmas – and ornamental cherries are in full bloom.

What does it all mean? Well, concerns over weather and climate are timeless: as Mark Twain quipped, “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” Setting El Nino’s and climate aside for a later article, our weather that we got this fall and the first few weeks of winter was extremely unusual, setting a number of records. For example, in Akron, the average temperature for the month as I write this on December 30, 2015 was 44.5 degrees, roughly comparable to the average December temperature for Atlanta, Georgia.    

For specific concerns relative to the landscape:

1). Tim Malinich poetically notes, there will be a “Loss of bloom for precocious bloomers”. For the sparsely flowering forsythia and the spotty blooms on rhododendron this will probably not even be noticeable in the spring. For the flowering cherry Dan noted, ornamental effect may indeed be a low show for spring.

2). For woody plants, the first test of the winter season will be how rapidly temperatures drop. Freezing of water into ice crystals for intercellular water even of dormant plants in unusually warm winter weather is always a concern. Concern may be multiplied this year due to the missing autumn, but the closer to normal 30s-40s in the day and 20s at night that during New Year’s week succeeded the 50s-60s of Christmas week was probably useful, providing more normal fall-ish weather. Naturally, this issue will possibly repeat, and all depends on the January-March weather to come.

Sudden drops from seasonably unusually warm weather is usually the biggest culprit in killing stem tissue, though severe low temperature freezes that affect stem and root survival is also a concern, but will simply just be “what we get”.  Mulching can provide some moderation.      

3). Tim Malinich also brings up an interesting dilemma with regard to weed control. He notes: Winter annuals are loving this, lots of new germination and growth.  Should be a bumper crop waiting for the landscapers in April.  If it doesn’t slow down a bit they may be in seed before the crews can get them out next year meaning extra weed problems for the next couple seasons; plan on proper identification and precise timing of pre-emergent applications next spring AND fall.  This goes for containers in production as well.  Make sure beds are clean prior to mulching.”

4). Bee gardeners should note the words of Barb Bloetscher, from ODA, who  notes that: “The honey bees have been active through fall and Nov-Dec. reports of them bringing in pollen during the first 2 weeks of December. With honey bees still active and very little nectar/ pollen available, they are eating stored pollen and honey which could deplete the amount of food necessary to survive winter and early spring. Researchers are seeing and predicting losses throughout the northeastern and northern U.S. 
5). On the turfgrass side, Joe Rimelspach (OSU-Plant Pathology) notes a similar concern with sudden temperature drops: On the lawn side of the landscape, at this point we should not see any serious problems. One exception would be newly seeded lawns with juvenile seedling. These could be injured if there is a severe and sudden drop in temperatures or if covered in ice (standing water that freezes). Turf type Tall Fescues are usually the most vulnerable.” Hopefully, we shall enter more traditional winter weather with a continued moderation of the transition that occurred in late December.

From the Jewish Arbor Day tradition, Tu Bishvat, the “New Year for Trees” celebration, comes this closing:

It is the New Year of Trees, but here the ground is frozen under the crust of snow. The trees snooze, there buds tight as nuts. Rhododendron leaves roll up their stiff scrolls.”

Thursday, August 6, 2015

August 5, 2015

Sedges can be hard to identify. This one, at the end of the boardwalk, may be Yellow Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). We know that the ancient Egyptians used sedges in the genus Cyperus to make papyrus, the progenitor of modern paper and hence the basis for low-cost and easily-accessible written communication.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 19, 2015

Jim Chatfield would want you to know your conifers. It's easy!

Pines & Spruces have ROUND needles.

  • White pine (Pinus strobus) has 4 or 5 long, thin, and bendy needles in a cluster. Woody cones longer and thinner than red pine.
  • Red pine (Pinus resinosa) has 2 thick, snapable needles in a cluster. Short woody cones.
  • Larch (Larix laricina) is in the pine family and its needles form uniquely in whorls. Small woody cones form directly on branches.
  • Spruces have very sharp needles that circle the entire branch. Norway spruce (Picea abies) branches curve upwards at the tips. Blue spruce (Picea pungens) has pretty blue-tinted needles. Large hanging woody cones.

Yew, Arborvitae, Juniper, Fir, Hemlock, Baldcypress, and Dawn redwood (not pictured) all have FLAT needles.

  • Yew (Taxus spp.) are the most common pruned shrub; has red "berries" in the fall.
  • Arborvitae (Thuja spp.) needles are scale-like and very flat; has small upright woody cones.
  • Juniper (Juniperus spp.) has scale-like needles that are thinner and rounder than arborvitae; has small berry-like blue/white cones.
  • Firs (Abies spp.) are usually larger trees and the underside of the branches is flat (that is, the needles do not circle the entire branch as in fir needles are flat, not round). Large woody upright cones.
  • Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) have short needles that are white underneath (similar to fir, but hemlock needles barely overlap). Small hanging woody cones.
  • Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) has small green/gray cones.
  • Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) has larger needles than baldcypress; branches opposite. Small hanging woody cones.

May 22, 2015

May Flowers!

Lilac (Syringa)

Dianthus next to Stonecrop (Sedum)

Stonecrop (Sedum) in flower

Sweetshrub (Calycanthus)


Lupine (Lupinus)

Flowering onion (Alium)

Peony (Paeonia)


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

May 4, 2015

Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) have 4 petals, but the flower at the very bottom is an anomaly with 5 petals! Folklore says that when you find a 5-petal bluet, you can make a wish after you've eaten the flower.

Crabapples are stunning flowering trees in the Rose family. This photo is of cultivar Strawberry Parfait in full bloom.