Sunday, April 14, 2024

The most beautiful Wisteria in the World - Ashikaga Flower Park in Japan

  Japan’s largest wisteria located in Ashikaga Flower Park in Japan, is certainly not the largest in the world, but it still measures in at an impressive half an acre and dates back to around 1870.  Is also referred to as the most beautiful Wisteria in the World.  The blooms range in color from pale red, purple, yellow and white depending on variety.

       
Park Description from Roadtrippers.com : "Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture is famous for its wisteria blossoms. Elaborate supports to the three big wisteria trees cover an area of about 1,000㎡. The best times to visit Ashikaga Flower Park is from mid April to mid May. It is a truly unique attraction; the blossom starts with light pink blooms first in the season, followed by purple wisteria, white and then yellow. Just before you decide to visit the park, I recommend to check the official website for the latest status of the blossoms."
 
Image Citations (Photos 1 & 2): Roadtrippers.com


This is not the home of the largest Wisteria vine in the world, the record holder measures in at about 4,000 square meters, and is located in Sierra Madre, California.  Although wisterias can look like trees, they’re actually vines. Because the vines have the potential to get very heavy, these particular plants entire structures are held up on steel supports, allowing visitors to walk below their canopies and bask in the pink and purple light cast by its beautiful hanging blossoms.

Price for entry into the park depends on the season and what/how many plants are in bloom.  The Wisteria bloom in Ashikaga Flower Park from April to May annually.  The park is a popular tourist destination so be sure to plan your visit well.  For more on Ashikaga Flower Park in Japan visit the parks website (English Version)   http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/english/  or in person

Ashikaga Flower Park

329-4216 Tochigi Prefecture
Totigi [Tochigi] 329-4216 Japan
+81-284-91-4939

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Texas Red Oak - Quercus texana

 Texas Red Oak - Quercus texana, (also called the Nutall Oak) is a medium to large tree that grows to reach heights of 115 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter.  The Texas Red Oak has a swollen base and spreading, horizontal, slightly drooping branches.  Texas Red Oak is commercially important in the floodplain areas of the Mississippi River, where it is harvested as Red Oak.  Wildlife rely on the acorns of this species as a reliable source of food.  Due to it's strength, ability to grow well in poor soil and nice appearance it is becoming a popular shade tree.  It is native to floodplains, bottom land woods areas, and wet clay soils from 0-200 m.  It is restricted in range mainly around the Mississippi River drainage basin from Alabama west through Eastern Texas, north to Southeastern Missouri and Southern Illinois.




Image Citation: Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University, Bugwood.org

The bark of young trees is light brown in color, thin and tight with slightly raised squiggly shaped plates that cup up at the edges.  When sunlight reflects on this trees bark it reflects narrow silver streaks.  The branches are noticeably long, straight and slender with the lowest ones slightly drooping down towards the ground.  The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate, elliptic or obovate, with a wide angled or flattened base, with 6-11 lobes, all lobes are sharp pointed and bristle tipped.  The fruit is in the form of an acorn with a cup that is 10-16 mm deep, the outer surface is hairless or finely hairy. The cup of the acorn encloses 1/3-1/2 of the nut, the nut itself is broadly egg shaped or ellipsoid.  


Image Citation: Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University, Bugwood.org


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Monday, March 18, 2024

Golden Dewdrops - Duranta erecta

 The Golden Dewdrops - Duranta erecta, are most easily identified by their brilliant sky blue colored flowers and bright yellow fruit.  They originated in the West Indies but have been naturalized from South Florida to East/Central Texas.  In the United States they are found primarily on disturbed sites, pine lands, and hammocks from 0-100 m.  An evergreen shrub, occasional vine or rarely a small tree they reach heights of only 20 feet.



Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

The unique sky blue flowers are about 1cm in diameter, with 5 petals each, borne in an elongated raceme ranging in size from 5-15 cm long.  The flowers occur year round.  The fruit is a round yellow drupe that matures year round an averages about 1.5 cm in diameter.   The leaves are opposite, simple, elliptic or egg shaped, tapered to a short point at the tip.  The bark is simple and gray when young, becoming fissured and rough with age.

The Golden Dewdrops is a member of the Vervain (Verbenaceae) family that includes roughly 35 genera and 1000 unique species found in only topical and sub tropical regions.  This family includes many colorful ornamentals and recent research shows this family is closely related to the Lamiaceae (mints & teak are in this family).

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Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Japanese Pagoda Tree - Styphnolobium japonicum

  Japanese Pagoda Tree - Styphnolobium japonicum, is recognized by the combination of  pinnate leaves, white or yellow to white flowers and yellow to brown, necklace like legume.  It is a deciduous tree that reaches heights of about 60-65 feet tall. Growing in an erect form with a single trunk and broad crown.  It was introduced from Asia and is cultivated and now naturalized from Pennsylvania and Ohio in the North to North Carolina in the South. 



Image Citation: Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org

The Styphnolobium or Necklacepods is a small genus, made up of only 7 species of shrubs and trees.  The leaves are always alternate and pinnately compound and the flowers bisexual.  The fruit is a very distinct beadlike legume and the seeds are toxic.  The species in this genus have been commonly grouped with the Sophora, unlike the Sophora species, they lack the ability the fix atmospheric nitrogen.  

Image Citation: Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org


The bark of the Japanese Pagoda Tree is gray-brown and ridged with elongated vertical furrows.  The leaves are alternate and pinnate, the blades are 15-25 cm long and about 11 cm broad.  The leaflets are 7-17 in number alternate and opposite.  The flowers are bisexual and either Corrolla White or Yellow White in color and about 1 cm long each.  The fruit is hairless and yellow-green to light brown in color and in the form of 8-20 cm long legumes with seed compartments that mature in Autumn and persist into Winter.  

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Friday, March 8, 2024

Oysterwood - Gymnanthes lucida

  Oysterwood - Gymnanthes lucida (also called the Crabwood), is the only tree native to Florida who's leaves have an eared base.  It grows in an erect form with a single trunk and narrow crown.  It is found in Hammocks in the Florida Keys and Southern Florida only.  A member of the very small genus Gymnanthes which is made up of only 12 species a distributed in the American tropics, Oysterwood is the only member found in North America.  It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that reaches height of only about 30 feet tall.  



Image Citation: Dan Clark, USDI National Park Service, Bugwood.org

The bark of the Oysterwood is smooth, sometimes finely fissured, and gray-brown in color. The leaves are alternate, simple, leathery, elliptic with a distinct ear shape at the base.  The flowers are unisexual, with male and female on the same tree.  Flowers are mostly absent of petals and sepals.  Male flowers occur in elongated racemes reaches up to 5 cm long, but remaining shorter than the leaves.  Female flowers are solitary at the tip of a long stalk that arises from the base of the male raceme.  Flowers occur between Summer and Winter annually.  The fruit is rounded, 3 part with a dark brown capsule that reaches up to 12mm in diameter.  

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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Cherrybark Oak - Quercus pagoda

 Cherrybark Oak - Quercus pagoda, is most easily recognized by the combination of leaves with 5-11 marginal lobes and hairy lower surface, large buds and bark that is very similar to that of a Black Cherry.  It is a deciduous tree, potentially reaches heights of 60-80 feet tall.   Growing in an erect upright fashion with a single trunk which is generally clear of branches on the trunk.  The Cherrybark Oak prefers a bottomland, floodplain forest, lower slopes, river beds and other areas that are subject to periodic flooding.  The Overcup Oak is another Oak that is commonly found growing in the same habitat areas, however they are not very similar in appearance having very different leaves and acorns.  



Image Citation: Brian Lockhart, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The leaves of Cherrybark Oak are alternate, simple, ovate or elliptic to nearly obvate.  The upper leaf surface is lustrous and dark green in color hairy when immature.  The lower leaf surface is paler and densely hairy and soft to the touch.  The fruit is in the form of an acorn with a cup that is 3-7 mm deep, brown in color, rounded and striped.  This is one of the largest and fastest growing of all the Southern Oaks.  

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Monday, March 4, 2024

Arborvitae - Thuja occidentalis

  Arborvitae - Thuja occidentalis is monoecious evergreen tree that generally reaches heights of 40-50 feet tall, although it has the potential to grow much taller in ideal conditions.  It is a native northern Cypress with scale like leaves, and flattened twigs that are grouped in fan shaped sprays with bilaterally symmetric cones.  Found mostly on limestone derived soils, in swampy areas, riparian areas, and on cliff /talus from 0-900 m.  It is common from Ontario and New Brunswick in the north, south through the Appalachians of North Carolina and Tennessee.  It is also commonly called Northern White Cedar, American Arborvitae, Eastern Arborvitae, or Cedar Blanc.


Image Citation: (Foliage) Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

The bark of the Arborvitae is Red-Brown in color and becomes gray with age.  The bark is thin and fibrous becoming fissured and forming long strips with age.  The pollen cones are 1-2 mm long reddish in color. The seed cones are ovoid 9-14 mm long, green maturing to brown with 2 pairs of woody, fertile scales, each one is longer then it is wide.  The leaves are scale like, flattened 1-4 mm long, 1-2 mm wide, pointed and dull yellow-green on the upper and lower surface with visible glands and lateral leaves near twig tips.

Image Citation:  (Bark) Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

It is written that in 1536 an extract from the foliage of the Arborvitae saved the lives of Jacques Cartier and his crew who were suffering from scurvy during their second discovery voyage to Canada,  they in turn named the tree Arborvitae which is Latin for "tree of life".  They brought the tree home with them to Europe, making it the first North American tree to be introduced to Europe.   Since that time, there have been more then 120 cultivars discovered and named.  This sheer number makes it one of the most popular trees in horticulture today.  Arborvitae is also one of the longest lived trees in Eastern North America, it has been documented to live up to 1890 years.

Image Citation: (Row planting) Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, Bugwood.org

Arborvitae is a very common planting in both residential and commercial settings.  It is recommended for hardiness zones 3-7 and holds it foliage year round.  This tree adapts very well to both shearing and shaping and naturally grows in a pyramidal shape.  It is often used as a natural fencing or planted in rows to create a hedgerow/screening effect.



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