Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Native American deciduous magnolias and other American gems...

When we bought our property, we were surprised at the lack of diversity in the tree population with many species over-represented and some common trees completely absent.

This VERY sad little ragtag collection of plants represents our future collection of uncommon, decidious American magnolia.

I managed to find a small grower of three magnolia varieties I've had trouble finding at local nurseries - Magnolia tripetala, Magnolia macrophylla, and Magnolia acuminata (the cucumber magnolia).

The first two species are well known for their huge leaves and typical white, magnolia-type flowers. The latter, for its cucumber-like fruit and large size.

In addition, we have been adding other American species such as the Franklinia, Vernal Witchhazel, Winterhazel, Ilex opaca, white and burr oak, native viburnum, Asimia (paw paw), Metasequoia, Birch, Tulip poplar, Beech, American persimmon, Sassafras, Catalpa, and Taxodium to name a few.

We also added 3 Princeton elms to flank the main house. 'Princeton' is a true, 100% American elm that was reproduced from a tree found in Princeton, N.J., with innate resistance to Dutch Elm disease.

We look forward to being able to reintroduce American chestnut trees back onto the property as they become available through the work of the American Chestnut Foundation, an organization working to create a blight resistant American elm, by crossing it with the more resistant Asian chestnut tree.

Chestnuts were once the predominate tree in our neck of the woods and our timberframe house is made of huge chestnut logs harvested on the property by Benjamin Whitmore in the mid-18th Century.

In addition, the fruit was a valuable source of food for both the people and livestock alike.

The Franklinia alatamaha tree has an interesting history. It was first described Philadelphia botanists John and William Bartram growing along the Alatamaha River in modern-day Georgia in October 1765.

William Bartram collected Franklinia seeds during this extended trip to the South from 1773 through 1776. Right from the beginning, the tree was noted to have an extremely limited distribution.

"We never saw it grow in any other place, nor have I ever since seen it growing wild, in all my travels, from Pennsylvania to Point Coupe, on the banks of the Mississippi, which must be allowed a very singular and unaccountable circumstance; at this place there are two or 3 acres (12,000 m2) of ground where it grows plentifully." W. Bartram 1791.

The tree was last verified in the wild in 1803, and all current stock was derived from these original seed collections in the 1770's. It falls into the tea family and has been noted to be somewhat hard to establish.

More to come!


  1. HI Kent-Jane Kestner here.
    Wonderful informative post. I am so glad you are repopulating with native trees. Plant one for me!

  2. Is there any way to find a collection of trees and plantlife local to the Emmitsburg region, specifically?