Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Trees of Note

Here are three trees that I'm especially fond of, which we bought several years ago. The first is the Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia 'Ogon', the second a Japanese maple, Acer palmatum 'Aka shigitatsu sawa' and finally another Japanese maple, 'Beni otake'.

Metasequoia 'Ogon' (Japanese for gold), aka 'Gold Rush' Dawn Redwood. These trees literally glow in the garden even on an overcast day. We bought three but one died after I moved it two too many times. It's a fast grower - approximately 4 feet per year. The regular Dawn Redwoods seem to grow faster and spread more but I prefer the narrower growth habit of the 'Ogon'. The tree is deciduous so like the Bald Cypress, it will lose it's needles in the fall.

Some interesting information from Wikipedia: "Metasequoia was first described as a fossil from the Mesozoic Era by Shigeru Miki in 1941, but in 1944 a small stand of an unidentified tree was discovered in China in Modaoxi by Zhan Wang; due to World War II, these were not studied further until 1946 and only finally described as a new living species of Metasequoia in 1948 by Wan Chun Cheng and Hu Hsen Hsu. In 1948 the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University sent an expedition to collect seeds and, soon after, seedling trees were distributed to various universities and arboreta worldwide for growth trials.

In the late 1980s, it was discovered that many of the second generation trees in cultivation suffered from inbreeding depression (extremely low genetic variability) which could lead to increased susceptibility to disease and reproductive failure. This was because most of the trees were grown from seeds and cuttings derived from as few as three trees that the Arnold Arboretum had used as its source. More widespread seed-collecting expeditions in China in the 1990s sought to resolve this problem and restore genetic diversity to cultivated Metasequoia."

Further: "Conservation

There remains one Dawn Redwood forest, consisting of barely 5,000 trees[2]. Since its discovery, the Dawn Redwood has become something of a national point of pride, and it is both pretected under Chinese law and planted widely[2]. As such, it's not likely to go extinct, but Dawn Redwood is critically endangered[3] in the wild. Though cutting of trees or branches is illegal, the demand for seedlings drives cone collection to the point that natural reproduction is no longer occurring in the dawn redwood forest[2]. Alhough the species will continue to live in yards, parks and on roadsides all over China, the Metasequoia forest ecosystem could disappear when its mature trees die."

How tragically sad.

Acer Palmatum, 'Aka shigitatsu sawa'. This is the red form of the 'Shigitatsu sawa' which according to the Vetrees book Second Editon,1987, (means ' "snipes quacking, fly up from a swamp." Further, " 'Shigitatsu sawa is also the name of a place in Sagami-Oiso. In the Genroku Era (200 years ago) the poet, Michikaze O yodo, lived there and called it Shigitatsu sawa. Quoting from a old poetry book by Priest Saiygo: "In the evening, in Fall, at Shigitatsu sawa, even a person whose heart is vacant, feels sad."

This is a relatively slow growing tree, considered to be a dwarf by the Japanese. The contrasting veining and interesting shaped leaves make it an unusual collectible. It is in the Reticulatum, variegated group of Japanese maples.

Beni otake Japanese Maple. Translation: Big red bamboo

It is in the Linearilobum group.
The purplish-red strap-like leaves grow in layers and give the plant a bamboo-like appearance. The leaves hold red color in the summer and and are a brilliant crimson in fall. The Japanese name means 'big red bamboo' but this tree is actually of American origin.


Blogger DeeMom said...

When you have time please visit my BLOG. I have an Award for you!

5:42 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Gee, thanks a lot Deemom. I am sincerely touched. I would grab the award to post in the sidebar of my blog but I've having so much trouble with the formatting and I'm kinda wary of doing so. So if you don't see me bragging about it by placing it on the sidebar it isn't because I'm not appreciative. I also received an award of excellence from Carolyn Gail of Sweet Home and Garden Chicago but again did not add it to my sidebar for fear something would go awry. :( I gotta get more html savvy.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

I find the plight of the New Dawn in the wild astonishing, but then I guess I shouldn't. Check out some of our own cash trees and where they are today; American Chestnut, American Elm and the native trees here that are in jeopardy such as the red oaks, hemlocks, ash.

What's worse is that when the Chestnut trees succumbed to the blight, 50 species of animals, birds and insects died with it. If our Hemlocks succumb (and they are very endangered), another lot of especially birds will become extinct along with those trees. And this is just here in the US.

Pennsylvania is gearing up to intorduce 50,000 American Chestnuts back into the landscape. But the species of insects, birds and animals that perished can never be brought back. It's enough to make you cry.

When I see folks building homes in beautiful pristine woodlands and then plant foreign trees in the middle of the wood, I see horrors of the pristine forests dead in 10 years and our wildlife along with it.

I know no one cares what I think, but I always try to encourage folks to purchase trees that are native (and we have a lot of very beautiful trees), and not to pick or dig up the wildflowers in hopes that someone will listen and care. Many people comment, "But my nursery man says..." Yep, your nurseryman will sell every foreign tree he has. His governing issue is the dollar, not the environment. I took issue with a PSU Master Gardener for this exact thing.

But this is my soapbox...

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I too am guilty of owning a Metasequoia Glyptostroboides (in a tub). But I agree with you that there is an inherent danger in introducing fast growing non-natives in suburban gardens and particularly village gardens. Here in the UK there is a movement afoot to stop this if the trees will be visible from outside the garden. Eucalyptus being one of the most visible in no time at all.
There are very strict regulations about cutting down trees in gardens, and you need specific planning permission to do so. The reverse is true for planting trees and this is what people are beginning to object to.(joco)

5:58 AM  
Blogger joey said...

Great post and lovely photos, Ki.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Les, Zone 8a said...

I am fond of all three trees, but the Metasequoia is one of my favorites. This past winter the owner of my company sent me truck loads of plant material he wanted to get rid of, and told me to put a get-it-out-of-here price on. Being dutiful, I did so and purchased a 6 ft. 'Ogon' for $5.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

I wrote longish replies to the comments. Although blogger seemed to post it, it was lost. I really hate when that happens especially when it has done so numerous times in the past. So here are much truncated versions and my apologies for the late replies.

Hi Julie,
I wonder what effect a small plot of land - a yards trees can have? I think it's more the trees in forests that should be protected from non-natives? It is lamentable that we have lost a number of native species but we live in a global world and pests and diseases arrive in droves through shipment of goods and even passenger flights. It is difficult to resist a wonderful looking specimen tree/plant displayed in a nursery. I actually did look up information about the metasequoias as soon as we purchased the trees. I knew of their endangered status but the information I found at that time mentioned they were making a comeback because the propagators were producing many trees from seed. Little did I know about the situation in the Wikipedia article. Hopefully the Chinese govt has cracked down on the harvesting, legally or illegally of the seeds in the wild.

Hi Joco,
The UK is certainly more strict in the planting of non-natives. We only have to worry about cutting down trees of certain trunk caliper size especially if you live in a historic district. It may just be local laws or maybe even NJ state law but I don't know how it is in other states. We had several diseased wild cherry and sassafras trees in the yard which the developer determined were desirable ones when they originally built the house. We had a tree cutter take them down w/o notifying the township. A neighbor was aghast we had cut down such "beautiful" trees but I don't think she would have appreciated if the tree dropped a large dead branch on her kiddies.

Hi Joey,
Thanks. I've been busy with some other project and haven't been able to check out the blogs I usually haunt so my apologies for not visiting but will do so soon.


Hey Les,
you could have had a forest of them for $5 apiece!!! ;) I see small specimens sold online for $75-100 not including shipping so you made out like a bandit especially for a 6 feet tall tree!


Thanks all for your comments.

3:52 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Ki, I am guilty of planting a couple of non-native trees in my garden, but I usually go for the native varieties. My garden was a farmer's field when I first built on it, however I have neighbors, who live in the woodland near me who have planted non-native trees in the middle of the forested area. It annoys me that they think it's OK because the nursery they visit told them the trees were nice because nothing bothers them but didn't tell them the risks of planting them in a wooded area.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Tabatha said...

gorgeous trees!

7:24 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Julie,
I wonder if the nursery knew that your neighbors were going to plant the non-native trees in a native forest? If yes, shame on them. Now that we have almost no space to plant large new things, I have come to appreciate native plants which seem to be able to live in low light conditions.


Hi Tabatha,
Thanks. The trees are interesting an beautiful at the same time. Some plants look awful as they grow larger but these trees have become much more beautiful as they have grown. Thanks for your comment.

6:26 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

My Photo
Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

Carnival-small Blogroll Me!

Listed on Blogwise

Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Gardening  Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory