Friday, April 30, 2010

Chorisa speciosa - Silk Floss Tree

Chorisa speciosa: Chorisa named for Ludwig Choris, a botanical artist 1795-1828; speciosa, meaning 'showy'.

The common Spanish name for this tree translates as 'drunken tree' for the trunk's resemblance to a wine barrel.

Moderately fast growing mid-sized tree, common in the Southern California landscape.

Palmately compound leaves with 3-5" leaflets.

Deep pink to burgundy large (up to 8" x 5") flowers in fall. Flowers resembled a narrow-petaled Hibiscus.

Fruit is a woody pear-shaped capsule 6-12" in spring

Tapered greenish trunk with thorns is enlarged and heavy at the base.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chamaecyparis obtusa - Hinoki Cypress

Chamaecyparis obtusa: Chamaecyparis from Greek chamai, meaning 'dwarf', and kuparissos, meaning 'cypress'; obtusa, meaning 'blunt', possibly referring to the leaf tip.

Slow growing formal pyramidal tree will stay small for many years.

Flat sprays of scale-like leaves, often in horizontal tiers.

1/4" female cones produced in fall. 'Aurea' cultivar has yellow new growth in the sun.

Reddish brown bark sheds in long narrow strips.

Often seen as a bonsai specimen.

Catalpa bignonioides - Common Catalpa

Catalpa bignonioides: Catalpa is the North American Indian name for plants of this genus; bignonioides refers to the species' resemblance to Bignonia, the trumpet creeper.

Coarse textured, round-headed tree gives a tropical effect. Smaller than C. speciosa.

Enormous cordate (heart-shaped) leaves can be up to 13" long! Leaves have a vegetable scent when crushed.

Showy white salverform flowers with purple/brown/yellow spots in 7-8" racemes.

Cigar-shaped seed capsules in summer/fall. Compare to narrower seed capsules of C. speciosa.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Washingtonia robusta - Mexican Fan Palm

Washingtonia robusta: Washingtonia, named for George Washington; robusta, meaning 'robust'.

Compare to the California native W. filifera, the California Fan Palm.

W. robusta is taller than W. filifera (and Phoenix canariensis for that matter), with a more compact head and narrower trunk resembling a living telephone pole. W. robusta is also much more common than W. filifera.

Lovely skyline effect, especially when planted in groups.

Petioles are armed.

Creamy white inconspicuous flowers in April and May.

Shiny black edible drupes enclose a brown, flat, hard-shelled seed.

Taxodium distichum - Bald Cypress

Taxodium distichum: Taxodium, from Greek meaning “resembling a yew,” because the yew has a similar leaf shape; distichum, referring to its two-ranked needles.

Fine textured deciduous conifer, similar to Metasequoia glyptostroboides, but T. distichum tends to be somewhat shorter and leafs out later. T. distichum is much less common than M. glyptostroboides in the Bay Area landscape.

Needles are pointed. Compare to M. glyptostroboides' rounded needles.

Round golf ball-sized cones in fall.

Found near New Orleans in swamps, where it puts up 'knees' (seen in the foreground), which provide oxygen to the roots.

Reddish brown fibrous and shallowly fissured bark peeling in thin strips.

Syagrus romanzoffianum - Queen Palm

Syagrus romanzoffianum: Syagrus is the name used by Pliny the Elder for a variety of date palm; romanzoffianum, named for the politician Nikolai Petrovich Romanoff (1754-1826), who financed the second Russian expedition in the Americas.

Feather palm with fronds easily damaged by wind.

Soft, flexible, paired leaflets radiate around the frond. Petioles are unarmed.

Fruits are inedible single-seeded drupes about 1.5" long ripening late in summer.

Very smooth grey bark with rings originating from old leaf base attachments.

Paulownia tomentosa - Empress Tree

Paulownia tomentosa: Paulownia, named for Russian Princess Anna Paulowna, daughter of Czar Paul I; tomentosa, meaning 'hairy' or 'wooly', referring to the lower leaf surface.

Very coarse, round headed tree. This fast-growing tree needs a lot of room.

Blue to pale violet trumpet-shaped flowers with a yellow-striped throat in showy upright 6-12" panicles before leaf out. Compare to Jacaranda mimosifolia.

Enormous cordate (heart-shaped) leaves with smooth upper surface and hairy undersides can grow to be as much as 12" long.

Leathery seed pods start green and turn brown with maturity, cracking open to release lots of small winged seeds in fall. Seed pods can persist on the tree into winter.

Shiny gray bark with reddish mottled fissures.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides - Dawn Redwood

Metasequoia glyptostroboides: Metasequoia from meta meaning 'with', 'after', 'sharing' or 'changed in nature'; sequoia refers to the sequoia genus; glyptostroboides, for its resemblance to the genus Glyptostroboides.

This tree was known only in the fossil record until it was rediscovered in China in the 1940s. Fossils of this tree have also been found on the Pacific Coast. This is the tallest tree in China.

Leaves are pinnately compound, paired opposite along branchlets with soft fern-like needles.

Female cones resembling giant sequoia cones are about 1" long. They hang pendulous from long slender stalks.

Scales open to release tiny brown seeds when the cones mature in late summer of the first year and can persist on the tree into winter.

Incredible pink to orangey brown fall color.

These conifers are deciduous.

Gorgeous fibrous reddish brown bark with shallow fissures.

Buttressed trunk.

Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera: Liriodendron, from the Greek leirion meaning lily and dendron meaning tree; tulipifera, meaning 'tulip-bearing'.

Not to be confused with Magnolia x soulangeana, which is also sometimes referred to as Tulip Tree.

Coarse-textured tree with a pyramidal, excurrent growth habit.

Simple 4-lobed leaves 5-6" long with a notched truncate tip.

Greenish-yellow and orange tulip-shaped flowers in May and June. However, trees often don't bloom until 10-15 years old when the blossoms themselves are typically high in the tree's canopy.

Good yellow fall color.

Bark is smooth and dark green, becoming gray-brown and furrowed with age.

Laurus nobilis - Grecian Laurel

Laurus nobilis: Laurus is the Grecian name for this plant; nobilis, meaning notable, renowned.

Also known as Sweet Bay.

This slow growing tree can also be used as a hedge.

Dark green, shiny, leathery leaves. Lanceolate shape with an acutely pointed end. These were the leaves used to crown the heroes of Ancient Greece.

These are also the culinary bay leaves of commerce, favored for their sweet aroma. Leaves from the California native Umbellularia californica can also be used in cooking, but these have a much stronger flavor. The leaves are also used for scenting linen cupboards.

Small yellow to cream colored flowers in April and May. Flowers are dioecious and unisexual.

Fruit is a dark purple pea-sized drupe favored by birds in fall.