Friday, May 2, 2014

Plants Never Here

Puya alpestris
Cannabis sativa

Although our Plant Library contains thousands of interesting and hard to find plants, please understand that we do not necessarily offer all of these for sale. Please consult our availability listings for current stock.

Buchholz Nursery's website contains an extensive photo library, and I sometimes wonder how long it would take to look at all of it, even if the information part was skipped. Occasionally a potential customer will call with the intention of buying something because he liked what he saw in the photo library. But perhaps that plant is not on the Availability because 1) we sold out, 2) never have had it for sale or 3) because I've never even owned one. Then sometimes we hear crabby comments like "so, then why is it on your website?" My answer is "Why don't you look at the large lurid red type at the beginning?"

But I pondered the question carefully as we were developing our website, not wanting to confuse or unnecessarily clutter it. But not everything that I do is in service of the nursery. Donating plants to the school auction does not benefit Buchholz Nursery in the least, but every year I do it. Look at it this way: the website-photo library is something that Buchholz Nursery borrows from. The photo library is more important, a greater entity than Buchholz Nursery. My puny little company and modest impact on horticulture pales in comparison to the wonders of the floral world. The photo library is a celebration, my celebration of all of the incredible things that I have seen. That record will live on after I have passed. It is my autobiography, so to speak.

Today I'll focus on plants that have never been grown at Buchholz Nursery, but I wished that they all were here. If I had an endless supply of money I would build a huge conservatory and stuff it full of tropicals. I would construct a ten acre scree bed and plant the world's most choice alpine plants. I would hire world-renowned experts to manage each division. Well, none of that will ever happen, but at least I've been able to travel around and see a lot.

At the Flora Wonder Blog beginning are photos of Puya alpestris and Cannabis sativa. The Puya was photographed at the Huntington Botanic Garden last spring in southern California. It was located in the impressive cactus section, and yes the bird sitting atop it is a common sight. I think he spend most of the day there. The Puya is a species in the Bromeliaceae family, and so is related to the pineapple. It comes from the Chilean Andes, and the genus name Puya is the native name for the related Puya chilensis. The species name alpestris is the Latin word for "alpine." I can't really say that I like the shiny metallic blue of the blossoms, but a spike of them is certainly impressive.

The Cannabis was photographed in a country garden in Washington state (where it is legal to grow), and I think it is a most attractive weed. I didn't ingest any but I could smell it from a hundred feet away. The word cannabis is from Greek kannabis, and is related to the Persian word kanab; and Neo-Babylonian quannbu refers to the plant meaning "a way to produce smoke." It is thought to have originated in the Himalayan foothills, and the locals rub the oil on their bodies to ease aches and pains. I remember a Nepal trek long ago where we camped in a school yard, for that was the best flat place around. The perimeter of the grounds was a thicket of pot, growing lushly to six feet tall. I'm not sure if the school had a "drug problem" or not, but everyone seemed happy.

I also saw a single marijuana plant that majestically soared to ten feet tall in Kunming, China. It was located just half a block from the city's main tourist hotel – this was in the 1980's, pre Tiananmen. I don't know for certain, but I'll bet there was a camera trained on it. It smelled like a set-up. A young tourist stoner would quickly harvest a twig or two and continue down the street. Then the cops would pounce and toss him in a moldy cell with other ne'er-do-wells. After a full day and just one meal that looked and smelled like vomit, he would be dragged into the interrogation room. Three chain-smoking plainclothesmen would yell at him in Chinese. One would leave the room and be replaced by another who spoke English. The tourist is told that his trial will be in three months, and in the mean-time he will remain in custody...or, or he can pay a fine, then he would be free to go. The fine was calculated at 1,500 US dollars. The total in his possession was 724 dollars, so the fine was recalculated to 724 dollars, and the poor tourist was able to buy his freedom. But it also ended his time abroad.

Of course the above story is made up, except the Cannabis plant really was there. But I personally know plant hunters who were collecting alpine-plant seed in China (in the 1990's). They were arrested and the harmless seed was confiscated. Everyone in the group had to pay a fine, and sign documents that they would never violate Chinese law again.

Ceroxylon hexandrum

Hexandrum quindiuense

Alexander von Humboldt

Back to trees that I have never grown are two species of Ceroxylon, hexandrum and quindiuense, that are native to the high-elevation (8000-9000 feet) valleys of Quindio in northwest Columbia. The quindiuense species is known as the "Quindio Wax Palm" and is the tallest of all palms. It is now recognized as the national tree of Columbia, and was first observed by my hero of world exploration, Alexander von Humboldt in 1801. The trunk is smooth and covered with wax, and the dark rings around it are caused by the leaves which die and fall off. These palms were threatened because of the multitude of uses for their wood, leaves and fruit, and the wax from the trunk was once used to make candles. They are now governmentally protected, and a good thing for the endangered yellow-eared parrots which inhabit them. I first saw a Ceroxylon in the Strybing Arboretum of San Francisco and I delighted in the whimsical trunk rings, imagining that Dr. Seuss was somehow involved.

Dracaena draco

Juniperus cedrus

Canary Islands

I don't grow Ceroxylon because it isn't hardy for me, and that is the case for many other intriguing plants that I saw last spring in Los Angeles (at the LA Botanic Garden). I suppose the trunk rings are no big deal if you live in a palm-friendly environment, but I was equally impressed with the markings on the trunks of the Canary Island "Dragon Trees," Dracaena draco. The Canary Islands are reputed to contain a wealth of floral diversity and I certainly would like to visit one day. It is home to one of my favorite of all conifers, Juniperus cedrus, which has survived here through some brutal winters. The islands are located off the northwest coast of Africa and were not named for the canary bird, but rather for dogs. The Latin name was Canariae Insulae and the Roman historian Pliny the Elder said it contained "vast multitudes of dogs of very large size." Even before the Romans, the ancient Greeks knew about an island far to the west where the "dog-headed" people worshipped the canines. The root of the word canaria is canis, and our domestic dog is scientifically known as Canis lupus familiaris.

Acer cappadocicum 'Aureum' in early spring
Acer cappadocicum 'Aureum' in summer

Acer cappadocicum ssp. lobelii
Acer cappadocicum

Acer cappadocicum ssp. sinicum

Acer cappadocicum ssp. divergens

There are quite a number of maples that appear on our photo library, but that have never been here. I admire the Acer cappadocicum species, but I have only seen it grown in European arboreta. I don't know anyone in America growing the cultivar 'Aureum', but it makes a glowing yellow presence in summer after beginning with orange-red new growth in early spring. Ultimately it will more than double the size of Acer palmatum 'Aureum' and Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'. If anyone wants to make me happy, please send a few scions this winter, legally of course. Acer cappadocicum is in the Platanoidea section, and was named for its origin in Turkey and the Caucasus region. Other forms of cappadocicum are the subspecies lobelii, sinicum and divergens, which I have seen in Europe.

Acer okamotoanum

Acer okamotoanum

Acer okamotoanum is a rare species endemic to Ullung Island, South Korea, while some authorities list it as Acer pictum ssp. okamotoanum. One advanced authority (de Beaulieu in An Illustrated Guide to Maples) doesn't recognize the pictum species and regards okamotoanum as a subspecies of Acer mono. In any case, one is left to wonder how the maple developed on one solitary island, 186 miles from the mainland. On the one hand okamotoanum is just another green "Norway Maple"-looking medium-size tree, but on the other the leaves contain a high level of a new favonol glycoside gallate ester which inhibits activity against human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) integrase. There's nothing more I can say after that factoid, except that I again wish someone would send me some scionwood.

Acer distylum

Acer distylum is a pretty species with an un-maple-like appearance, as it resembles a "Lime Tree," the Tilia genus. The distylum species name is from distylus, meaning that it displays two styles (a stalk structure in the female flower). I had to look that up, because again, I don't even own the maple. The species is rare in Japan, and was introduced by Charles Maries, who was then employed by the Veitch Nursery. I don't know  if its leaves contain anything useful or not.

Acer hyrcanum var. hyrcanum

The above photo of Acer hyrcanum var. hyrcanum was taken at Kew Gardens in England. Its name comes from Hyrcania, a location by the Caspian Sea in present day Iran. Its common name is the "Balkan Maple," and its range extends from southeastern Europe to western Asia. Acer hyrcanum was introduced as early as the 1830's, but nevertheless it remains rare in cultivation. It is said (de Beaulieu again) to be difficult to germinate seedlings due to its "strong parthenocarpic tendency," and parthenocarpy literally means "virgin fruit." In botany and horticulture it refers to the natural or artificial production of fruit without fertilization of ovules. Naturally we have Acer hyrcanum, and artificially we have something like the production of seedless watermelons...and what a shame for our country's Fourth of July seed-spitting contests. Back to the country of Iran, it used to be called Persia, which I prefer. In 1935 Reza Shah asked foreign delegates to use the term Iran (which was historically used by the natives). Ancient Greeks termed the area Perses or Persis for Cyrus the Great's empire, and the locals, the Pars tribe, lived in a region now called Fars Pars, a place I hope to never visit.

Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea Nana'

There are a few "European Beech" that I have seen but do not have, and I suspect that they are already in America. Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea Nana" seems like a useful ornamental. It grows with a dwarf oval crown, and you can see the deep purple color in the photo above. I know that it is of Dutch origin, and maybe even developed by the Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam, one of my favorite of all European gardens.

Fagus sylvatica 'Mercedes'

Fagus sylvatica 'Asplenifolium Hilda'

Fagus sylvatica 'Rohan Weeping'

Generally the beech don't color well in autumn, but Fagus sylvatica 'Mercedes' does. The willow-like green leaves of spring and summer turn to bronze purple in fall. It is a dwarf with a dense bushy habit. The cultivar 'Asplenifolium Hilda' is probably an invalid name, but the tree is certainly cute. The only problem is that I can't remember where I took the photo. The 'Rohan Weeping' in the photo above was grafted on short standards, and I think I saw them at the Vergeldt Nursery in Holland about five years ago.

Fascicularia bicolor

One of my favorite of all plants is Fascicularia bicolor, and I found them growing in a number of southern English gardens. As with the aforementioned Puya alpestris, the Fascicularia is native to Chile, but in this case from coastal forests. It too is in the Bromeliaceae family. The leaves are long and thin with soft spines. As the plant ages it forms clumping rosettes, and the Latin word fascicularia means "clustered together in bundles." The species name bicolor is for obvious reason. I've never seen it offered in any American garden center, including those in California. That's probably good, as I would certainly buy one, and it likely would not survive our Oregon winter's wet and cold.

Magnolia 'Dude's Brother'

There are a raft of interesting Magnolias grown in other gardens, but I don't really covet most of them, for two reasons: they get large fast and because sales were never strong for me anyway. Oh, and besides, I often don't like their names. Magnolia 'Big Dude' was raised by Phil Savage by crossing Magnolia x soulangeana 'Picture' with M. sprengeri var. sprengeri 'Diva'. I don't know, but I assume 'Dude's Brother' was a brother seedling (which we usually term a "sister seedling"). But both are dumb names.

Magnolia 'Paul Cook'

Magnolia 'Paul Cook'

The Magnolia 'Paul Cook' was photographed last year at Gossler Farms in Oregon. It resulted from a cross of Magnolia x soulangeana 'Lennei' seedling with M. sprengeri var. sprengeri 'Diva'. The breeder was Frank Galyon of Tennessee, and he also developed the cultivar 'Emma Cook' which is a M. denudata x M. stellata 'Waterlily'. I generally don't care for the habit of naming plants after people, even though I often love many of the plants in question, and I don't have a clue about either Paul or Emma Cook, and why they would be so honored. Anyway, I'm not really a "Magnolia guy," so there's a lot that I don't know.

Sequoia sempervirens 'Albino Form'

I'll finish with plants that I don't grow, but are still on our website, with Sequoia sempervirens 'Albino Form'. This is not really a cultivar, but rather a name used to identify a pure-white mutation that occasionally develops in a "Coast Redwood" forest. The above photo is from a plant near Santa Cruz, California, and it resides along a state nature trail, and even has its own sign with an explanation on how it can even exist. The Sequoia sempervirens species is known as the tallest tree on Earth, and in a few places in California there have appeared the white-needle phenomena. This aberration could not survive on its own, but it can survive because a redwood forest is so intertwined with roots, that one tree's roots are actually feeding the tops of another, so that an albino mutant can be nursed by a vigorous green mother – or mothers. Nature is absolutely incredible, don't you think? I received scionwood from this Santa Cruz tree ten years ago, and I tried to root some, and to also graft some sticks onto Sequoiadendron giganteum, the only related species that I had available at the time. My propagation effort yielded 100%, but unfortunately a 100% failure. And, and that failure explains why (at my advanced age) I've never accumulated much wealth: because I squander my resources on unprofitable nonsense such as trying to produce white redwoods.

In conclusion, my website photo library documents an incredible journey, where an average-of-intellect Joe such as myself can rub shoulders with some of the most incredible aspects of nature. And I certainly know that no other career would have worked for me.


  1. "Dudes Brother" you gotta love that name HAHA

  2. i love this blog...have posted pictures on pinterest...and would love to make a trip to your nursery one day!!!!!!!!!
    i don't do facebook...but i get your weekly seth tracking me?