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Archive for the ‘Opportunistic plants’ Category

Last week I drove past the Paulownias I wrote about in 2009, and realized that they deserved another blog post.  In the four years since that post, all three trees have shot up.  

I kept trying to shoot an image with the two paired trees in it, minus the utility lines, but it wasn’t doable without risking life and limb.  The trees have grown higher than the house and the utility lines, and have easily tripled (at least) in size.

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Two paulownias planted four years ago now shade almost the entire front yard.

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The smaller of the two trees measures perhaps 12″ DBH.  The once-sunny walkway is now almost entirely shaded.

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It’s a little tricky to see, but the right-hand tree is larger than the one to the left.  Directly behind it stands a large Japanese maple; in the 2009 post you can see the maple’s fall color, and compare its trunk size to the now-towering Paulownia’s. 

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The other day I was on Beacon Hill and spotted this mostly dead hemlock tree, completely swathed in Boston ivy:

Boston ivy uses this dead hemlock tree as a climbing structure; its owners choose to let the tree stand and continue as a feature in their courtyard garden. Mature trees are rare in tiny Beacon Hill gardens; 'repurposing' this one turns it from an eyesore into an asset.

Perhaps the owners were simply neglecting their courtyard garden, but I like to think that they saw the mature tree’s size as an asset to the place, and decided to use the deadwood as an armature for another plant, and to use the resulting ‘hybrid’ as a garden element.

I have seen this strategy used with other trees; an ancient, mostly dead apple through which a vigorous rose climbs and blooms, tiny dead crabapple that hosts a clematis vine, and a couple of thriving Norway maples whose through whose canopies wind equally thriving wisteria vines.

We see bittersweet and poison ivy taking advantage of the height and sun exposure offered by trees; why not use that principle and foster the growth of ornamental vines over dead trees, or, as in the case of the Norway maples and wisteria, let one aggressive species provide a platform for another aggressive species?

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Burning Bush

Last week I was driving through a shady and pleasant part of Wellesley, MA, enjoying the really stunning show of fall colors.  One bucolic road was flanked on one side by a steep wooded hill, at the bottom of which a small stream flowed next to the road.  I noticed that the brightest colors came in that stretch from an almost continuous line of Euonymus alatus, commonly known as Burning Bush or Winged Wahoo (Yes! I couldn’t resist giving this one of its names.).  A few were still green, some had turned brilliant red, and in some that robust red had drained out, leaving the foliage looking delicately pale and anemic.

Ealata wild

I don’t believe any of those Euonymus had been intentionally planted there; more likely birds had eaten fruit from some nearby cultivated Euonymus alatus shrubs, the seeds survived digestion, and found a hospitable niche next to the stream.

Ealata tame

Right around the bend from the stream was this beefy looking Burning Bush, an obviously well-tended accent in someone's yard.

The scene was lovely, but it was repeated all over the woodlands in that area of town — great color, and large quantities of this non-native and now-invasive shrub.  It’s at this time of year that the ubiquity of some invasives become really evident (Oriental Bittersweet — also a member of the Celastraceae family — is another).  Visually, it’s a wonderful treat; ecologically, perhaps a little more challenging.  Euonymus alatus is now on the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List, which means that nurseries are prohibited from growing or selling it in the state.

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Everybody wants to be a star...This little poplar started up in a Needham Hollywood Video Store sign, about ten feet off the ground.  Either the sign will give one of these days, or the tree will.

Everybody wants to be a star...This little poplar started up in a Needham Hollywood Video Store sign, about ten feet off the ground. Either the sign will give one of these days, or the tree will.

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