Under Cover

There’s something picturesque about ivy twining its way up a tree trunk, the contrast of glossy green pointed leaves against furrowed bark.

ivy1But in Portland English ivy, Hedera helix, is invasive.  Letting it ramble up tree trunks over time can have serious consequences.

Ivy_tree6This tree is so completely covered in ivy it’s almost impossible to tell what’s underneath.

Ivy_tree2It’s one of a trio in a curbside planting strip. The ivy’s working its way along.  The second and third tree look like they still have a chance at making it.

Ivy_tree3Actually, it’s hard to believe but the the overtaken tree is still living and from the leaves it looks like it’s a glorybower tree, Clerodendrum trichotomum.

Ivy_tree5You can learn about the damaging effects ivy in our city’s natural areas, removal methods, or how to volunteer with Portland Parks & Recreation’s “No Ivy League”  here. This organization is dedicated to saving trees by eradicating ivy in Forest Park.

Ivy isn’t the only weed that can attack a tree in this way.  Clematis vitalba, known by the common names Old Man’s Beard or Traveler’s  Joy, gives ivy a run for its money.  If things like this don’t give you nightmares, go ahead and read up about this noxious weed on this bulletin posted by the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.  See here for their leaflet on ivy also.


I wonder what kind of tree is underneath this mess?


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Tree tunnel

During these warm sunny days of this seemingly never-ending summer, I find myself searching for shade, lovely shade.  There isn’t much to be found in my own back yard due to lack of inspiration and decisiveness for a garden plan until very recently.  I’m envious of those SE Portland neighborhoods shaded by mature elms in Ladd’s Addition and Eastmoreland.

One of my favorite Portland drives at any time of year is on SE McLoughlin Boulevard. But summer is the best time — when the canopy of trees almost touch in the middle over head offering brief cool respite from the long days of bright sunshine.  Here’s the view north from the east edge of Westmoreland Park.


And south toward the Tacoma Street off ramp:


There’s a lot more light coming through than in past years.  Trees have been removed along the east side where the light rail is being expanded.  Bybee Boulevard overpass is partially closed during construction.



I’ve always called out “tree tunnel!” to my children in the car with me as we drive under the leafy passage.  Together we then silently acknowledge the unique feeling of traveling through a space created by the organic architecture of verdant growth.

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Floribundus, yes indeed

I missed posting for Bloom Day.  Again.  Flowers catch my eye, but then on Bloom Day, the ones I noticed are done, or someplace other than where I happen to be with my camera.

These are faded and brown now, but were looking great when I took these shots on July 3.


And closer still.


I first noticed this large front yard Catalina ironwood, Lyonothamnus floribundus subsp. aspleniifolius, just north of NE Knott on NE 20th Ave in December.  It was dark and cloudy and I couldn’t get a good shot then.  It wasn’t looking its best then anyway, with the brown spent flower clusters still clinging, and matching leaf die-back from the December freeze.

It’s amazingly huge for a tree that is supposed to reach around 20 feet in the garden.


And isn’t the bark cool too?


The gardener was out front when I screeched to a stop in my car.  She told me it came from Cistus Nursery — naturally — but I can’t remember when she said it was planted.  It sure is happy in this west-facing spot.


She also said that this was the best bloom season this tree has had.  L. floribundus, profuse flowering — got that right.

This tree meets all the criteria for a favorite in my book.  Evergreen leaves of unusual and beautiful form, ornamental bark, drought tolerant, and fast-growing.  There is a slight problem of its messy look due to retained dead leaves.  But that shouldn’t hinder enjoyment very much in light of all the positive features.

This one at the McMenamin’s Chapel Pub on N. Killingsworth (always good for unusual plant viewing) is a more typical size.  It also enjoys its placement sheltered in a southwest facing aspect.



This next one is close by to the Chapel Pub tree, a front yard on N. Moore Ave, just north of Killingsworth for easy sidewalk viewing.


I can’t stop admiring the leaves!  The subspecies name, aspleniifolius means leaves like Asplenium (a fern).

Killingsworth_LYFLb     Killingsworth_LYFLa

And the bark!


Native to the California Channel Islands, this tree is the only species in its genus.  A member of the rose family, Rosaceae, it prefers full sun and well-drained soil in a protected location.  Tolerant of poor soils and drought, and hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 10.

For more information on this tree, see the San Marcos Growers website.

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7/16/2014 Wordless Wednesday


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Who what pine?

Confusion abounds with respect to nomenclature of conifers. In the pine family we have Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, which is neither a true fir (genus Abies) nor hemlock, as its genus name implies – “Pseudo” meaning false, and “tsuga,” hemlock.  Then there is western redcedar, Thuja plicata, which is not a cedar (genus Cedrus, within the pine family) but a type of arborvitae, cypress family, Cupressaceae.

Huon pine, Lagarostrobos franklinii (syn. Dacrydium franklinii), is a confusing conifer not as widely known as the examples above. You guessed it, not a pine (family Pinaceae) at all.  This Tasmanian endemic is a member of the podocarp family, Podocarpaceae, the sole species within its genus.

I first saw this tree in a greenhouse during my new years visit to Forestfarm.


Portlanders don’t have to travel to Forestfarm, a nursery in Southern Oregon, to see one.  This broadly spreading front yard tree can be admired from the sidewalk on NE 33rd Avenue, between Siskiyou and Morris.


Wikipedia tells us this rare tree is slow growing (6 to 8 feet tall in 10 years) but long lived, eventually to 30 feet tall or more. In its native habitat, some are estimated to be over 2,000 yeard old.  Huon pine is a riparian species, occuring in rainforests and is named for a river where it occurs. The wood is a valued specialty timber source.

Considering its slow growth, I wonder how old this tree could be? The trunk is sizable. I didn’t take time to estimate height, but I would say it’s over 15 feet tall, maybe even 20 feet.


The scale-like leaves are spirally arranged and very small. Both the leaf arrangement and the overall branching habit are decurrent, producing a broad, lacy curtain of foliage.


The cones are tiny and delicate too.



I hope to discover more specimens of this unique tree.

Forestfarm lists this tree as hardy to USDA Zone 8, 10 degrees F.  The Desert Northwest has this to say about cultural requirements: It appreciates a moist, well-drained site in sun or partial shade, and is most at home in a maritime climate such as the Pacific Northwest. Hardier than a lot of other plants from Tasmania, it can handle temperatures down to about the 10 – 12°F range in the Pacific Northwest.

For further information on this tree, see this Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service file.

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