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Posts Tagged ‘Conifers’

Often when we see a plant for the first time we do not have a chance to see what it would look like in the wild of its full potential. This is particularly true for very large species such as trees which we often we see mangled to fit into too small urban areas. One tree I see which is often treated this way is Cedrus deodara (Deodar Cedar), it is a wonderful plant for the right place.

One of the many majestic Deodar Cedars found in Beacon Hill Park.

One of the many majestic Deodar Cedars found in Beacon Hill Park.

Deodar Cedar has been used in many ways for a very long time this is partly because it comes from an area of very old civilization.  It is found in an area of asia which is from south-west Tibet traveling west through western Nepal,  north-central India, northern Pakistan and into the corner of Afghanistan. Over time these trees have been logged out from many of their former areas and are now rare. In its native area it grows at high altitudes of 1500 to 3000 m(5000-9800 ft.).

The large cones which sit up-right are just one of the attractive features of Cedrus deodara

The large cones which sit up-right are just one of the attractive features of Cedrus deodara

Himalayan Cedars were and are logged for their beautiful wood which has been in demand for many centuries. the wood has a fine, close grain and takes a high polish as well as being rot-resistant and durable. It has been used for building temples, houses and other buildings, ships and boats, bridges and furniture. The trees have been used for landscaping since ancient times.

This Cedrus deodara is found next to the driveway exit at Government House.

This Cedrus deodara is found next to the driveway exit at Government House.

Cedrus deodara is know as ‘the tree of the gods’  in Sanskrit which is where part of its botanical latin name originates. Deodara comes from Sanskrit ‘devadaru’ deva= god and daru meaning wood. Cedrus originally come from the ancient Greek ‘kedros’ which was the orginal name for the Juniperus species. The Cedrus genus is made up of 4 closely related species which are found in the Mediterranean area and Asia.  the common name of Cedar when it is used here in North America usually refers to a Thuja, Chamaecyparis or Juniperus.

The attractive bark of Cedrus deodara is seen in this multi-trunked tree.

The attractive bark of Cedrus deodara is seen in this multi-trunked tree.

The Deodar Cedar is the national tree of Pakistan. In the Hindu religion Deodars are worshiped as divine trees and are referred to in several of their legends. In ancient times forests of these trees where the favored places for Indian sages to meditate in. The tree also plays an important role in  Ayurvedic system of traditional medicine of India. The bark and oils which are extracted from the inner wood are still used. The bark and twigs are powdered and used as a powerful astringent while the distilled oils are used in aromatherapy and as an antiseptic.

The wonderful golden plumed Cedrus deodara 'Aurea' has stunning color and is found in Hollywood Park which is between Fairfield Rd. and Earle St.

The wonderful golden plumed Cedrus deodara 'Aurea' has stunning color and is found in Hollywood Park which is between Fairfield Rd. and Earle St.

The Deodar Cedar can have a slightly whimsical feel about it when it is young with the tips of its bows drooping, but don’t be fooled this will become a magnificent tree. These are trees for large areas with full sun, the exception is with golden and cream-colored trees which need protection in areas with extreme heat and sun. They are easy to grow and will take most soils as long as it drains well. These trees grow very fast when young and can attain heights of over 9 m. (30ft.) within 10 years. It will eventually grow to be about 24 m.(80 ft.) high and 13 m.(40 ft.) wide. These trees are specimens and are best featured in parks, estates and large properties, the largest one I have ever seen was at the Kyoto Botanical Garden and probably was at least 100 years old. Here in Victoria we see quite a few of that age such as the ones that the Herons perch on in Good Acre Lake in Beacon Hill Park.

This Deodar Cedar in Good Acre Lake is favorite Heron perch found in Beacon Hill Park.

This Deodar Cedar in Good Acre Lake is favorite Heron perch found in Beacon Hill Park.

There are many cultivars of Cedrus deodara which you can choose from, they range from full-sized to miniature and colors from creamy through chartreuse into greens and blue tinged foliage.  There are also weeping forms. All the cultivars are grafted and can be expensive especially for larger ones. Research what you might want to grow first before you buy as it is a life-time commitment when owning a tree. Take care when selecting color and choose that which is the most vibrant and healthy looking . These trees are from temperate areas and like it that way. They are rated as for zones 6 and above or -20c. (-10f.).

On the trek for Deodars:

Wiki site on Deodars’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedrus_deodara

Virginia Tech has good pictures of the various parts of the tree: http://www.cnr.vt.edu/dendro/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=456

Medicinal uses of Deodar Cedar in medicine: http://www.iloveindia.com/indian-herbs/cedrus-deodara.html

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When I was a child we would go to the Vancouver area once a year to visit my grand parents and other relatives. It was a big trip and took a full day of driving to reach our destination. Usually we would take at least one trip into the big city, we would go to the big stores which do not exist in a far away little town like we were growing up in. Another thing we often did was to visit Stanley Park for the day to visit the zoo and have a picnic. One thing we looked forward to was seeing the Monkey Puzzle Trees (Araucaria araucana) which were the most exotic and bizarre we had ever seen.

A large mature male Araucaria araucana or Monkey Puzzle tree found across from Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

A large mature male Araucaria araucana or Monkey Puzzle tree found across from Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.

The Monkey Puzzle tree was a puzzle from the beginning. It is tree which is very ancient and fossil records of it date back over 200 million years.  The trees at that time were found in a larger area from Brazil to the Antarctic but new research is suggesting the area might have been much larger and include parts of Europe and even England.  Now they are found in a much smaller area of south-central Chile and west-central Argentina. It grows on the lower slopes of the Andes Mountains at around 1000 m. (3300 ft.) elevation. This is an area which can have heavy snowfall during its winter. The tree is now designated as the national tree of Chile and is protected as its unique forests are now threatened by logging and expansion of population into the area it grows.

This Monkey Puzzle tree dates back at least to the early part of the 20th century in the most Victorian of city of Canada.

This Monkey Puzzle tree dates back at least to the early part of the 20th century in the most Victorian of city of Canada.

Araucaria araucana was first described by Chilean Jesuit priest  Juan Ignacio Molina(1740-1829) in 1782 in his book ‘Saggio sulla Storia Naturale del Chili’ a book about the natural history of Chile and many of its species. He thought Araucaria araucana  was a form of Pine (Pinus) as he was remembering the tree he had not seen since he was last in Chile in 1768.  At the time he was writing his book he was a Professor of Natural Sciences in Bologna Italy.

This a young Monkey Puzzle tree which is one of several found in Beacon Hill Park.

This a young Monkey Puzzle tree which is one of several found in Beacon Hill Park.

Archibald Menzies collected the Araucaria araucana seeds from a dinner he was having in Valparaiso  Chile to bring back to England in 1792.  The seeds he collected germinated on the way back to England were planted when they arrived in Southern England which has the mildest climate of the country. William Lobb the plant collector was later ordered to collect more seed in the 1840s for Veitchs Nursery which he worked for. The new and wildly unusual tree became a hit with the Victorian public and the trees were much planted from the 1850s. It has gone into and out of fashion over time with another period of craze occurring during the 1920s and 30s.

Male flowers cones on the left and females on the right are found on separate Monkey Puzzle trees.

Male flowers cones on the left and females on the right are found on separate Monkey Puzzle trees.

The name Monkey Puzzle tree seems to come from the Victorian era around 1850 when one of the first trees was on display. Someone was reported to have said ‘it would puzzle a monkey how to climb it’. The name has stuck to it ever since. The sprialling over-lapping  specialized leaf scales which cover the stems and young trunk are thick and somewhat fierce. I also like the french name for the tree ‘Monkey’s Despair’ or ‘Desespoir des Singes’.

The thick over-lapping scale-like leaves protect the stems and help give the Monkey Puzzle tree its name.

The thick over-lapping scale-like leaves protect the stems and help give the Monkey Puzzle tree its name.

The botanical latin name Araucaria araucana refers to the people who live where these trees grow. Mapuche(Araucanians) live in the Andres and the tree was an important source of food and the wood was valued for its long straight trunk. The trees have been protected since 1971 from harvest for wood.  It was also sacred to some members of the people.

This young Monkey Puzzle tree is at University of Victoria campus is a male.

This young Monkey Puzzle tree is at University of Victoria campus is a male.

The Monkey Puzzle tree is much-loved by children because it looks so bizarre and un tree-like. If you want to grow one of the trees there are a few things to learn. They are slow-growing and will take some time to not look ungainly and sparse. Choose a small plant as they do not like to be moved and this will often cause their death therefore be sure of where you are going to place it. They like well-drained moist soil in a site which is naturally humid, an area close to the ocean or a large body of water would be great. They need full sun but tolerate some shade such as deciduous trees might give.  They dislike pollution and are best situated where there is some wind to move the air along. They are fairly wind and snow tolerant and are rated at zone 8 or – 12 c.(10 f.) although they can take short periods of colder temperatures.

 

The bark of Araucaria araucana will over time lose the scale-like leaves and develop shallow horizontal ridges.

The bark of Araucaria araucana will over time lose the scale-like leaves and develop shallow horizontal ridges.

To help you un-puzzling this tree:

The naming of the tree: http://www.suite101.com/content/the-amazing-monkey-puzzle-tree-a230510

Check this short book, it’s all about the Monkey Puzzle tree:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=v2Mef2bI1UwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=monkey+puzzle&hl=en&ei=hgUFTdPvCZTAsAPJn-TlDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAQ

How to grow the trees from seed or cuttings: http://www.victorialodging.com/monkey-tree/tips

…….Hope you return for more exciting adventures in plants soon…..

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When I was in Horticulture school way back in the dark ages we learned about 300 trees and shrubs, the hardest for me were getting the conifers correct in my mind. These are the needle trees and shrubs such as Junipers of which there are many species, hybrids and cultivars. Of the group of conifers we were introduced to and studied several lost their needles every autumn.  These species which lose their needles are not that common around here except for the curious case of  the Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood) and what an interesting story it has!

Fantastic fall coloring of the Metasequioa glyptostroboides, A..K.A. Dawn Redwood.

Fantastic fall coloring of the Metasequioa glyptostroboides, A..K.A. Dawn Redwood.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides is a very old and yet new plant. It described in 1941 by Shigeru Miki, a Japanese Paleobotanist. The genus was already known from fossil samples which where in collections in various places. This may be why this tree was called a ‘living fossil’ when it was found. In 1943 C. Wang(Zhen Wang) from the National Bureau of Forest Research was visiting Wan Xian Agricultural School and heard about a huge unknown tree which was found in Modaoxi which was nearby. Wang then decided at that time to take his team and go and investigate this tree, they followed the directions they were given and travelled through high mountains to get to Wan Xian,Sichuan (now in Hubei province). They arrived in late July and collected branch and cone samples from the huge tree which was found there. In 1946 more specimens were collected from the same tree.

The cones of Dawn Redwood trees are small valved capsules.

The cones of Dawn Redwood trees are small valved capsules.

The tree specimens form the herbarium collections Wang had sent  back were at first mis-identified by him as a new species Glyptostobus pensilis. More study were done at the Department of Forestry at the National Central University(Chongqing) by W. C.Cheng who was a professor of Dendrology and Dean of the Department there. Cheng decided Wang was wrong.  Cheng and Wang published “Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu et Cheng” jointly in 1948.

Dawn Redwood Shed branchlets which are made up of needles in the fall.

Dawn Redwood Shed branchlets which are made up of needles in the fall.

Fossil samples show there were as many as 20 species and subspecies of Metasequoia at  one time which covered a wide area in the Northern Hemisphere. Samples have been collected as far north as Axel Heiberg Island(Canada) which parallels Greenland.  The ‘Bandlands’ of Western North America are full of fossilized stumps and other tree remnants. These fossils are from late Cretaceous to Miocene strata which they are well represented in.

One of several of the Dawn Redwood found at Beaconhill Park.

One of several of the Dawn Redwood found at Beacon Hill Park.

Most of the older Meatasequoia glyptostroboides are from the original seed sample material that was sent to Arnold Arboretum in 1948 and then germinated for distribution. The  new seedlings were sent to universities, other arboretum and  important parks for further study of the tree’s growth habits.  Most trees we have come from this original collection and this has created problems with in-breeding depression. To solve this problem in 1991 extensive seed collecting took place from the wild forests along the Sichuan-Hubei border in China. This will increase genetic diversity in the cultivated species. Plants which have come onto the market since this time are considered much stronger.

The delicate branches of the Dawn Redwood give this tree a delicate whimsical look.

The delicate branches of the Dawn Redwood give this tree a delicate whimsical look.

Dawn Redwoods are a fast growing tree which are normally are low limbed, making them great trees for climbing.  They need a large area, growing 75-100ft(23-30.5m) tall and 15-25ft(4.5-7.7m) wide. They like full sun and a well-drained moist site for the best growth.they do not like alkaline soils.  it is best to avoid planting these trees in frost pockets where the delicate emerging foliage can be damaged by late frosts. This tree is generally pest and disease if well taken care of.  They grow best in zones 4 through 8.

Older Dawn Redwood trees which retain their lower limbs can develope butresses bases which are much loved by children.

Older Dawn Redwood trees which retain their lower limbs can develope buttresses bases which are much-loved by children.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides is a true Sequoia and is related to the two other species (Sequoia sempervirens and Sequoiadendron giganteum) which are found on the west coast of North America. All tree species are listed in the subfamily Sequoioideae. The cones, and bark are similar,but the shedding of the foliage is different and highly unusual for any conifer.

More on Metasequoia:

A great source of information on all important conifer trees: http://www.conifers.org/cu/me/index.htm

Metasquoia has it’s own tree website: http://www.metasequoia.org/

A great source of information is alway found on this site: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/Plants/m/metgly/metgly1.html

Until we meet again……….

 

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