Sunday, May 3, 2009

I'm About to Rapture

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree” ~ this is the opening line in Joyce Kilmer’s (American poet 1886-1918) beautiful poem about a tree. It has always filled me with pride and been a motivating factor in my own near obsession with planting trees here on Selah. The recent rains have encouraged an explosion of flowering trees and shrubs, so much so, that I haven’t been able to visit, smell and observe them all. A walk on the trails this week revealed how many I had missed, but the sweet odors and the hum of bees and the skipping around of butterflies was surely rapturous!

Golden Ball Lead Tree (Leucaena retusa)

This attractive small tree or shrub is usually less than 15 feet tall. It is without spines or thorns, which are found on most of the Pea family members that live in dry areas. Cattle and deer find it very palatable which may account for the fact that it is not abundant over most of its range, which is Central and West Texas.

Photograph taken by Steven Fulton.

The leaves are twice compound. The fragrant flowers, which appear in the spring, are clustered, bright yellow rounded heads usually about ¾ inch in diameter. The fruit is a brown, narrow, flattened bean pod 4 to 10 inches long.

Photograph taken by Steven Fulton.

The Golden Ball Lead Tree is very attractive, easy to start from seed, and can be used in landscaping dry sites.

Rough Leaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii)

Cornaceae (Dogwood) Family

The Rough Leaf Dogwood is a small to medium sized shrubby tree with simple opposite leaves which are very rough to the touch. It prefers moist soil and is often found under the canopy of larger trees along waterways. It is often found in thickets as in damp deep soils. It tends to spread from rhizomes.

Photograph taken by Steven Fulton.

Though not nearly as showy as the Flowering Dogwood, a beautiful relative found in east Texas, it provides cover for wildlife and is a durable plant. The flower inflorescence of the Rough Leaf Dogwood lacks the showy white bracts of its cousin, but the flowers themselves are very similar.

Photograph taken by Steven Fulton.

The name “dogwood” comes from the fact that a medicine was made in England from the wood of a variety of Cornus to treat mangy dogs.

The fruit is known to be eaten by a variety of birds, including quail and turkey. I consider it a desirable tree.

Red Yucca (Hesperaloe paviflora)

This plant is not really a yucca, it is a member of the Agave Family. It is found in dry brush conditions in Texas and New Mexico. The sword like leaves stay green all year-round. Blooms occur from spring through fall with pink or coral colored flowers that cluster along the pink stalk.

It is somewhat uncommon in native conditions, but is a popular plant around roadside parks and in landscapes. If you plant it close to a building it will lean out for sunlight as it wants sunlight from all four directions.

The red flowers distinguish it from true yuccas. Hummingbirds enjoy the nectar and I’m sure enjoy the long blooming period. You can plant it in most any soil and climate.

Photograph taken by Steven Fulton.

Shrubby Blue Sage (Salvia Ballotaeflora)

In Texas this woody shrub in the Mint family, also known as Mejorana, can grow up to six feet tall. It is found growing in rocky limestone soils on the southern edge of the Hill Country, but a few specimens grow as far north as Blanco and Hays counties. Most members of the Salvia genus are ot woody, and many are common “wildflowers”, such as Blue Sage, Topical Sage, Mealy Blue Sage, Cedar Sage, and Engleman’s Salvia.

Photograph taken by Steven Fulton.

In this picture, you can see a Red Yucca behind the Shrubby Blue Sage.

Leaves are wider at the base than the tip and have wrinkled surface. The small, light blue flowers are ½ inch across, and have a flattened, funnel like shape. It blooms from April to June. The previous year’s flowering stems persist as dead twigs and give the shrub a scraggly appearance.

Photograph taken by Steven Fulton.

I have introduced this plant as one that could be native to Selah but that has not been found here. It was given to me by the San Antonio Botanical Center in 2001.

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