Friday, July 27, 2018



Besides naming nearly 8,000 plants with his binomial system – genus then species – Linnaeus also coined the name Homo sapiens, and he considered himself the “type” specimen. The Latin word homo or hominis means “human being,” while sapiens means “discerning, wise, sensible.” Therefore Homo sapiens is a word misnomer, as most people I've met are none of the above. Evidence of that, at least in America, is when you consider the politicians that voters have put into office.

Homo neanderthalensis

William King
Ernst Haeckel
Related to Homo sapiens was Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis who went extinct about 40,000 years ago. The type specimen is Neanderthal I found in the Neander Valley just east of Dusseldorf, Germany. That the type specimen extended to a group – Neanderthal Man – was a concept first proposed by the Anglo-Irish geologist William King in 1864 who thought the group was distinct enough from Homo sapiens to warrant a separate species. King's name held priority over Ernst Haeckel's proposal two years later (1866) to name the Neanderthal Man Homo stupidus. See again paragraph above.

Whether you like it or not there is evidence of interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals. DNA is found in the genome of contemporary populations in Europe and Asia, estimated between 1% and 6%, while it is absent from most modern populations in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yep – we mated with the knuckle-draggers, and it probably went both ways...i.e. your sister did it too.

The word people is from Old French peupel, and that from Latin populus for “a people, nation, body of citizens; a multitude, crowd, throng.” Populus is also the source of Spanish pueblo and Italian popolo. I sometimes refer to the Buchholz Nursery employees as “my people,” and though they are generally hard working, it is obvious that I care about them more than they care about me. With friends, if we are planning something, I'll say, “My people will be in contact with your people,” knowing full well that neither of us is important enough to have contact people.

John Lennon
Jesus Christ

The most famous person ever is not necessarily the most important person ever. “We're more popular than Jesus” was a remark made by John Lennon of The Beatles in a 1966 interview, then he added that Christianity would end before rock music. He also said that “Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.”


George Washington
Abraham Lincoln

King Henry VIII
Queen Victoria
Queen Elizabeth II

Isaac Newton

Steve Jobs
Charles Darwin

Leonardo da Vinci
Thomas Edison

Albert Einstein

Cai Lun
Johannes Gutenberg
If you leave religion out of it, I wonder what the vote would be for the most important person ever. Would it be Napoleon or Hitler? Is George Washington ahead of Abraham Lincoln, or vice versa? What about Queen Victoria or Elizabeth I of England or Henry VIII of England? Steve Jobs or Charles Darwin or Isaac Newton? William Shakespeare or Mark Twain? Leonardo da Vinci or Thomas Edison? Mozart or The Rolling Stones or Beethoven? Oops – don't want to leave out Albert Einstein. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but then Cai Lun (or Ts'ai Lun) invented modern paper in the first place (100-150 AD).
William Shakespeare
Mark Twain


The Rolling Stones

Vladimir Putin

Kim Jong Un

All of these people were important or significant, and I'm sure that many of you would champion someone else. Ex-President Obama would probably vote for himself, but then so would Donald Trump. Don't forget Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.


I guess my choice for the most important non-religious person is Aristotle, but I won't go into why, not today anyway. I know that most of you don't care, and that I should be writing about plants, not people. If that is true, I ask, then why do most of you skip the Flora Wonder Blog text and just look at the photos?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Flora from Seven Continents

Pinus koraiensis 'Morris Blue'

I visited the Morris Arboretum (outside of Philadelphia) a couple of weeks ago. Previously I had been there once, I guess about 25 years ago. I was with plantsman Greg Williams on my first visit and he was anxious to show me a Pinus koraiensis that was particularly blue. He arranged to get cuttings for me that winter, and needing to call it something, I christened it 'Morris Blue'. At the time there was just one other P. koraiensis known to me that was selected for blue foliage: 'Silveray', which was of German-then-Dutch origin. 'Morris Blue' is equally as blue, plus it displays a fuller more bushy habit. On my second visit I couldn't find the pine again, but then I didn't look too hard because it was 95 degrees and I was exhausted.

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca' at the Morris Arboretum

Anyway, at the visitor center I picked up a map/guide that mentioned that the collection contained “more than 12,000 labeled plants of over 2,500 types from the temperate areas of North America, Asia, Africa and Europe.” What, nothing from South America? From Australia? From Antarctica? The brochure didn't explain what was meant by 2,500 “types.” Does that mean species and cultivars? For example, the arboretum contained a couple of large Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca', so I guess that was at least one “type?” – from the Atlas Mountains of northern Africa.

Flora Wonder Arboretum

In biology a taxon (plural taxa) is a group of one or more populations of an organism or organisms considered by taxonomists to form a unit. The taxonomy word is derived from Greek taxis meaning “arrangement” and nomia meaning “method.” The word type that the Morris uses is from Greek typos for a “blow, dent, impression, mark” from the root of typtein to “strike, beat.” The reason I wonder what was meant by “type” is because my Flora Wonder Arboretum also contains approximately 2,500 species and cultivars, and as I've boasted before, we have representatives from all seven continents. So – what then?

Colobanthus quitensis

Let's get Antarctica out of the way first. There are only two flowering plants from that continent – one is a sedge that I have no interest in, and the other that we grow is a cute pearlwort named Colobanthus quitensis. It's definitely a subject of conversation when we present the moss-like hugger in our 35,000-year-old pumice stones. I'll admit that the plant's flowers aren't showy – they are very tiny and white-gray, but the main reason why I grow the Colobanthus is because most people would probably think that no plant is native to Antarctica. In other words: it is one of my “trophy plants.”

Ursa Major

The name Antarctica means “anti-arctic.” It comes from the Greek word arktos which means “bear,” and in this case it's not the polar bear, but rather celestial constellations – the Great and the Little Bear – which are visible only in the northern hemisphere. You can look at it as that Antarctica is opposite the “land of the bear.” Our little Colobanthus is actually a much-studied plant because 1) it has managed to survive in a harsh climate and 2) due to global warming it is proliferating and spreading more southward. Remember that Antarctica has not always been the ice box that it is today. About 170 million years ago it was part of the super-continent Gondwana, and when that broke apart Antarctica drifted southward. What we known today was formed about 25 million years ago, but when it was further north it was blessed with a tropical or temperate climate and was covered in forests. You would not want to have visited the continent, or at least the Russian Vostok Station, on July 21, 1983, because the coldest air temperature ever recorded on earth was -89.2 C (-128.6 F).

The seven continents' size in decreasing order:
Asia 1st, then...
North America
South America

But hey, if #7 Australia is a continent, why not Greenland too? – it appears to be about the same size. Maybe on the map, but looks can be deceiving, Mercator, because Australia is 7,692,024 Km square and Greenland only 2,166,086 Km square. Besides Australia is on its own continental plate while Greenland is attached to the North American plate.

Leptospermum scoparium 'Kiwi'

Captain Cook
A fun native to Australia (and New Zealand) is Leptospermum scoparium, and the pretty cultivar 'Kiwi' features dazzling deep pink-red flowers. They aren't large, but they are borne freely, even at a young age. New growth is an attractive reddish-brown, and our plants grow into upright dense pillars. The catch is that 'Kiwi' is only hardy to USDA zone 8 (10 degrees F), but it is still worth growing even if you must consider it an “annual.” The word leptospermum is from Greek lepto for “slight, slender, delicate,” and sperma meaning “seed.” There are a lot of spermas for plants, for example you can get confused with names such as Leptospermum and Leucospermum, and I have grown both genera. The specific name of Leptospermum scoparium is from Latin scopa for “broom” or “broom-like.” It is also native to New Zealand, and there it is known as “manuka.” When Captain Cook first encountered it the locals were drinking and bathing in manuka tea. His crew was sick with scurvy and infections, but they apparently recovered by drinking the tea. Manuka honey is popular today, with “alternatives,” going so far as to market it for treatment of cancer, high cholesterol, diabetes etc., but the evidence is limited if it is effective for these conditions.

Wollemia nobilis

Honestly I don't grow much else from Australia due to hardiness issues, and also I really don't care for the flora. I grew the Wollemi Pine for a number of years but eventually it hit the top of the greenhouse. I moved it out and constructed a special plastic tent with a heater and it survived the winter, but unfortunately it perished this past year. One learns to accept death and extinction in the Flora Wonder Arboretum, and after all I am only borrowing trees in my life, a life that doesn't have so far to go.

Kniphofia rooperi

Besides the aforementioned Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca' that comes from the Atlas Mountains of north Africa, I grow a number of plants from South Africa, and some are surprisingly hardy. I first encountered Kniphofia rooperi at the Hillier Arboretum in southern England where it was lustfully blooming in mid-October. Though hardy to only 5 degrees F, one can mulch the crown and it manages to survive in western Oregon. “Rooper's red-hot poker” is native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa and it won an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS in 2004 – about the first year that I saw it. Subsequently I found it planted at just about every garden or arboretum that I visited in England that year. The name of Kniphofia honors Johann Hieronymus Kniphop (1704-1763) – what a name! – a German physician and botanist. The specific name honors Edward Rooper (1818-1854), an English landscape painter and botanical collector and illustrator who served in South Africa in the Rifle Brigade. He died from wounds at the Battle of Inkerman in 1854, but before that he sent seed and bulbs from South Africa to his father in Brighton, who in turn sent them on to William Jackson Hooker at Kew. So actually, the botanic name honors the Rev. Thomas Richard Rooper, the father, although son Edward did the dirty – the field – work.

Oxalis bowiei

Gladiolus dalenii 'Bolivian Peach'

I keep a pot in the greenhouse of Oxalis bowiei, at least that's what the label says. Quite by accident a Gladiolus is in the same pot, so the two South African genera take turns blooming. The Oxalis bowiei is a clumping species that doesn't spread like our oxalis weeds at the nursery, and the fall-blooming “wood sorrel” displays unusual pink-red colored blossoms. The glad looks similar to the cultivar 'Bolivian* Peach', but I don't know if it is because it magically appeared with the oxalis about 10 years ago. I don't know if either are hardy in Oregon so I keep the concoction inside. Horticulture is fun with certain plant combinations, even if they occur by accident, and like with my wife and myself – she Japanese and me American of German descent – we happily comingle.

*Not from Bolivia, South America, but rather found on a roadside near the town of Bolivia, North Carolina by Plant Delights Nursery.

Araucaria araucana

A lot of species from South America can be grown in Oregon, but my favorite has to be the “Monkey Puzzle Tree,” Araucaria araucana, from Chile. I regret that I didn't devote an acre to the species when I began my nursery 38 years ago. I have seen naturalized forests in Belgium and at Bedgebury in England and they are marvelous treasures. I encourage any young plantsman – or woman – to begin a grove if you can spare the land.

The former Araucaria in Forest Grove

I lamented earlier this spring the strange case in nearby Forest Grove, Oregon, where a deranged home-owner cut down a perfectly healthy monkey puzzle. It was growing in his front yard – the only tree in fact – and it had plenty of space so I could see no reason why it had to go. Its removal disappointed my 12-year-old daughter because I always chose the route into town so we would pass the tree. Then last week my wife called and enthusiastically announced that she had discovered another monkey puzzle that was larger and loaded with cones, and it was only a few blocks away from the fallen tree. I have mixed feelings about the rights of property owners, and certainly I have planted and cut down trees whenever I wanted. But with a town name like Forest Grove you would think the civic leaders would be more diligent about protecting the canopy. Maybe order the homeowner to undergo a mental evaluation first...

Azara microphylla 'Variegata'

Another Chilean native is the evergreen Azara microphylla, a small tree or large shrub which produces tiny vanilla-scented yellow flowers in late winter. Azara was always a tough sell for us because it is only hardy to 0 degrees, USDA zone 7, but we still produce the pretty 'Variegata' which is easy to root and is a good container plant. The genus name probably honors Felix de Azara (1742-1821), a Spanish naturalist who did research in South America. Where to place Azara botanically is not certain: for example Hillier puts it into the Salicaceae family while Oregon State University places it in the Flacourtiaceae family. The former is the willow family of course, while the latter has come into disuse, and whose former members are now scattered to the Achariaceae, Salicaceae, and other families.

Quercus garryana

Ok, let's head arriba, up to North America. There are so many North American plants that have been important for my career that it's difficult for me to choose one that “represents” America. Sorry to leave Canada out of the discussion, eh, but consider that the national mammal of America is the North American bison, the national bird is the bald eagle, the national flower is the rose, and the national tree is...Quercus, though nobody says which species. The oak was chosen in a nationwide vote hosted by the Arbor Day Foundation in 2001. From the first day of voting the oak surged into the lead and finished with 101,000 votes, followed by 81,000 for the redwood – though nobody defines the “redwood” which could be either Sequoia sempervirens or Sequoiadendron giganteum. Anyway the oak won as a collective group since there are more than 60 species growing in the United States, with at least one species growing in nearly every state. I have no problem with the oak, in fact I bought my Flora Farm property because I was so impressed with a huge Quercus garryana growing near the home.

Linnaea borealis

I don't know why Europe is considered a continent when basically it's just a large peninsula hanging off the western side of Asia, kind of like a big penis. Is the UK part of Europe any more after its Brexit vote? Maybe unity can be found when we consider Linnaea borealis since it is a circumboreal plant in the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae). The “twinflower” is a modest little thing, nevertheless it was reported to be the favorite of Linnaeus, thus it was named by his friend and teacher Jan Frederick Gronovious. What's funny is that Linnaeus named almost 8,000 plants, and even though he was known to be a highly arrogant man, he preferred the wimpy Linnaea to bear his name. Linnaeus self-deprecated himself when he wrote: “Linnaea was named by the celebrated Gronovious and is a plant of Lapland, lowly, insignificant and disregarded, flowering for a brief space – from Linnaeus who resembles it.” Please! By the way Linnaeus referred to his students as his “disciples.”


Our final continent – Asia – contains flora that defines Buchholz Nursery, in fact I suspect that Japan and China alone represent over half of the plants in the Flora Wonder Arboretum. The word Asia is first attributed to the Greek Herodotus (440 BC) in reference to the region known today as Anatolia (Turkey) or to the Persian Empire. The root has two possible sources: 1) from the Aegean root asis which means muddy and silty – a description of the eastern shores of the Aegean Sea and 2) the Semitic root asu which means “rising” or “light,” denoting lands to the east.

Camellia sinensis flower

Camellia sinensis plantation

Robert Fortune
I explained to my 12-year-old the other day that tea comes from China. Maybe so, she said, but “you also said you can make a manuka tea.” That's right, you probably can make a potable tea out of half the plants in the world, but the black tea – which we don't allow her to drink yet – comes from Camellia sinensis. Then she recalled the story of Robert Fortune who stole tea plants and tea-making secrets from the Chinese in the 1800's. She remembered the story because her sister keeps a windmill palm, Trachycarpus fortunei and Fortune stole that from the Chinese too. The English word tea is thee in Dutch, tee in Finnish, arbata in Lithuanian, herbata in Polish and tsai in Greek (from Slavic chai). In China it is pronounced tu, a word for a bitter herb. Still the word varies in China, such as cha in Mandarin, dzo in Wu Chinese and ta and te in Min Chinese.

Anyway, we've just finished a trip around the world and have visited the 7 continents. The study of horticulture allows you to easily do that, and it was relatively painless – right?