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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Not just another dogwood

This time of year, the trees with blooms are the ones that get noticed.  As I go through my daily travels, my eyes are drawn to the white flowers adorning the Japanese snowbells and dogwood trees.  Over and over.  Not again?  Wow, how curmudgeonly to criticize these beautiful trees.  It’s just that I am craving more variety.

Japanese stewartia, Stewartia pseudocamellia, is not uncommon and is increasingly seen as a street tree around Portland.   But most I encounter are young, under 8 feet tall.  My favorite one is over 30 feet tall, on the grounds of of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on the corner of NW Everett and NW Trinity Place.

Trinity _stewartia1

I notice this tree more regularly in winter when the heavy street tree foliage isn’t blocking the view of the smooth, mottled trunk surface.  The trunk leans slightly, making an attractive line and contrasting color against the dark stone surface of the cathedral.

Trinity _stewartia2

The foliage and the blooms add to its beauty.


And a closer look.


Individual flowers are not long-lasting, but there’s a plentiful supply of buds opening one after the other so that the tree blooms for much of the summer.  I’ve seen this referred to as a four-season tree, and I must agree.  It’s the best example of an ornamental tree, with attractive form and exfoliating colorful bark.

I love the subtle zig-zagging alternate branching pattern.


Wait, there’s more –  fantastic red, orange, and yellow fall foliage.  Slow growing, it makes a good garden specimen tree.  There are several more species in this genus, all with their merits. S. koreana, S. monadelpha, S. sinensis to name a few.

Stewartia psuedocamellia, details from OSU  Horticulture Dept. Landscape database

  • Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8
  • Related to camellia, family Theaceae
  • Best in light shade
  • Well drained, acid soil
  • Regular water
  • Slow growing to 20-40 feet
  • Native to Japan
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The wishing tree

When I told Naomi that I discovered her favorite tree had been cut down, she expressed such sadness on her face.  But a minute later, she looked like this.


She was sitting in this tree in front of the church where her preschool is located.  It’s a wonderful gift to be able to live in the moment, and to be open to possibility — these are the lessons adults like me can learn from 5 -year-olds.  “Maybe this can be my new favorite tree,” she mused.

A while later we paid a visit to the Wishing Tree.



We read some of the wishes left by others.

tree_wish2     tree_wish1

Naomi added her own.



It can take a while to discover if something is really a favorite.  But in the mean time what’s better than finding one newly planted tree?  How about four?


After all, who can have just one favorite tree?


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