Plants of the Week – September 10
Cassia didymobotrya, a legume native to east Africa, is commonly referred to as popcorn cassia. The reference is to the glossy black flower buds and buttery-yellow blooms as well as the foliage which is reputed to smell like freshly popped corn. While the plants growing in the Theresa Lang Garden of Fragrance have yet to flower, the bright green pinnate foliage adds eye-catching contrast. Photo credit: J. Coceano
The Japanese horsechestnut, Aesculus turbinata, is not often encountered in the garden. The tree, often reaching 40-50’, bears leaves composed of 5-7 leaflets. Interestingly, every bud on a young tree planted near the pinetum, was covered in a sticky, syrup-like substance. Insects, often ants, were trapped in the syrup. Were they feeding or perhaps simply unobservant? Other species of Aesculus can be seen around Sharples Dining Hall. Photo credit: J. Coceano
With a strong visual punch, Crapemyrtles announce the arrival of summer. Lagerstroemia ‘Tuskegee’, growing near Old Tarble, bears a profusion of bubblegum-pink blooms. Over time, L. ‘Tuskegee’ will develop into a broad-spreading small tree. Crapemyrtles not only come in a variety of flower colors, but also vary in form. Cultivars range from tall, vase-shaped trees to diminutive, compact shrubs. Furthermore, the plants are drought-tolerant and relatively pest free. Photo credit: J. Coceano
As the days shorten, the seeds of deciduous trees begin to ripen. Acorns drop from oaks and Aesculus fruits split open to reveal buckeye nuts. Another tree displaying fruit is Gymnocladus dioicus, the Kentucky coffee tree. Native to the eastern and central United States, the obovate-shaped tree can reach up to 75’ tall. Flowers, held in large panicles, give rise to large, chunky seed pods. Pods can reach 5-10” in length and contain several large, hard seeds. Fall color is variable and the leaf and seed litter is considered messy. Even so, the plant is picturesque, especially in winter, and is pollution- and drought-tolerant. Photo credit: J. Coceano
John SchuckerPosted at 21:05h, 11 September
Do you have much winter dieback on the crape myrtles in a typical winter? (Certainly, this past mild winter was not typical). I was under the impression that they might die back to the ground here in Zone 6 (near New Hope and Lambertville). Your location may be a half zone milder which could make all the difference, especially if you site in special micro-climates.
Josh CoceanoPosted at 10:26h, 12 September
We are currently reviewing our Lagerstroemia collection and hope to add more cultivars in the near future. The specimens planted at the arboretum are in a variety of locations with many (but not all) near buildings. While we are a zone warmer than you the plants have not been killed to the ground due to cold. Lagerstroemia in Blacksburg, VA (a comparable zone to your location) would rarely see plants die back. If you are hoping to grow one for its exfoliating bark I’d recommend planting in a sheltered location or along a south-facing façade. Good luck.