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Insider Tour – Oaks

There are approximately 600 extant oak species, of which 160 are native to Mexico (109 endemic), 90 to the US, 40 to Texas and 100 to China. Because of its diversity, Mexico was considered, until recently, by many scientists to be the center of worldwide distribution of oaks; however, based on a large sample of herbarium specimens and fossils, using both physical and genetic observations, the current thinking is that oaks originated at the higher altitudes of northern Canada and migrated first to the western and eastern US and Europe, then, later, from the US to Mexico and from Europe to Asia. In Mexico, the oaks commenced rapid speciation (which is ongoing today) due to the large number of geographic zones separated by dramatic temperature or moisture gradients.

Quercus laeta –
Quercus mexicana –
Casimiroa pringlei – Not an oak. Rutaceae.
Quercus rysophylla – Native to the mid to lower elevations of northeastern Mexico. Stiff rough ovate to lanceolate dark green leaves. To 80 feet. Evergreen to semi-deciduous in our area, Sometimes marcescent. Cold and drought tolerant. Steeply draining soil is recommended. Better in full sun.
Quercus emoryi – One of only two oaks theorized to have returned north from Mexico to the US. Native to dry foothills and canyons of west Texas to Arizona and Mexico. Often growing with Q. oblongifolia. Black furrowed bark, glossy green leaves. Red acorn with a yellow cap. 30 to 60 feet. Evergeen. Rounded crown. Requires extremely well-drained soil. Requires full sun.
Quercus polymorpha – Variable leaves (hence the name), usually simple, elliptic to obtuse. Shaggy brown bark, more furrowed with age. Native to Val Verde, Texas (where surveyors of the Texas Nature Conservancy found it growing on their property) to Mexico and Guatemala. Mostly evergreen. Cold hardy. Drought tolerant. Steep drainage. Sun to part shade.
Quercus sartorii (xalapensis) – Native to northeatern Mexico.
Quercus aff. opaca – Native to northeastern Mexico. Closely related to pringlei.
Castanopsis cuspidata – Native to Japan and souther Korea. Home to the shiitake mushroom which means castanopsis mushroom.
Quercus crassifolia – Leathery leaf. New growth adaxially bright red, abaxially white. Mature leaf is olive green adaxially, orange abaxially.
Quercus sp. dwarf – Collected in northeastern Mexico. The parent plants were nothing more than small shrubs. These are much larger, possibly due to animal grazing in their habitat.
Quercus tarahumara – Native to the Sierra Madre. Very large leaves.
Quercus fusiformis –
Quercus vaseyana complex –
Quercus intricata – Reproduces vegetatively forming large colonies on open chaparral scrubland. Native to Texas – only two places, critically endangered here – and Mexico where it is abundant.
Quercus phillyraeoides – Nice evergreen oak. To about 60 ft. but often used as a large shrub. Multitrunked.
Quercus glauca –
Quercus dentata – Lanky reaching habit.
Quercus polymorpha (Val Verde) –
Quercus laeta –
Quercus aliena – To 80 ft. Native to Japan, Korea and central China.
Quercus sartorii –
Lithocarpus edulis (green) –
Quercus glauca –
Quercus sinuata – Native to this area of Texas.
Quercus texana –
Quercus alba –
Lithocarpus edulis (variegated) –
Quercus rhysophylla –
Quercus acutissima –
Quercus michauxii – Tolerates flooding. Beautiful large leaf.
Castanopsis sclerophylla – Probably one of the most beautiful of the oak flowers.
Quercus x warei – A cross between Quercus rober ‘Fastigiata’ and Quercus bicolor. Patented.
Quercus crassipes – Another Mexican oak, Hidalgo south to Chiapas. To 60 ft.
Quercus muehlenbergii –
Quercus alba –
Quercus schottkyana –
Quercus coccinea – Bright red fall foliage.
Quercus crassifolia –
Quercus glauca –
Quercus crassipes –
Quercus oblongifolia – Native to upper grasslands of southwest and Mexico.
Quercus greggii – Native to northeastern Mexico. To about 30 ft. but can be a shrub at high elevations.
Quercus dentata ‘Carl Ferris Miller’ – A full crown as opposed to dentata.
Quercus corrugata – Northeastern Mexico to Central America. Very large tree to 150 ft. Chocolate new growth.
Quercus lyrata –
Quercus acutissima – Note bright foliage.
Quercus marylandica –
Quercus falcata –
Quercus insignis – Large acorn. Wine-colored new growth. Native to Veracruz, Mexico.
Quercus afares – Algeria/Tunisia. Grows with q. suber. Bark is corky.
Quercus canariensis – Southern Spain to Morrocco/Tunisia. To 90 ft. Deciduous based on winter temperature.
Quercus buckleyi –
Quercus gravesii – Chisos Red Oak. Texas and Mexico at higher elevations. To 45 ft. Showy fall color red and gold south of Dallas.
Quercus affinis – Northeastern Mexico.

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Insider Tour – Palms

The Palms of Peckerwood Garden
Introduction – Palms are a diverse (approximately 2500 species) family (Arecaceae) of flowering plants (angiosperms) which start as a single-root producing seed (monocot) that eventually produces a trunk (stem) from which are produced leaves or flowers and fruit (drupe). Unless otherwise noted, palms mostly propagate by seed. Typical of monocots, palms have heavily branched root systems (adventitious), scattered trunk vascular bundles (atactostele as opposed to dicot cambium) and leaf parallel veining. Not typical of monocots though, palms have secondary trunk growth of parenchyma and lignin or fiber depositing cells that allows them to achieve massive size. The wood is so tough that in parts of the world where palms are common, salt water piers are made of palm logs. Further to the point, during the Revolutionary War, Sabal palmetto logs were used to build a fort on Sullivan Island to defend Charleston. Rather than shattering under heavy British cannon fire, the palm logs deflected the cannonballs and gave the Americans time to accurately set their cannon sights to inflict maximum damage. The British left without taking Charleston that time. Hence, South Carolina has a large Sabal palmetto in the center of its flag.

Unfortunately, living palms are usually not quite so tough. Most species grow only in the tropics, wilting below 50 F. Most species also need tropical humidity. Luckily, there are cold tolerant xeric and mesic palms, a few of which can be found at Peckerwood Garden. The Achilles heel of the palm is its meristem. Located near the tip of the stem, the meristem is a group of cells in which plant growth occurs. Should this meristem be damaged by fungus, lightning or cold (or very likely a combination), that palm stem will die, especially during drought-related stress. In the case of solitary palms, that means death of the entire plant. Palms also suffer from several fungal diseases, such as ganoderma which rots the trunk from the inside out.

Palms come in many different shapes and sizes. Some small (e.g. Chamaedorea radicalis), while some are extremely large (Sabal causiarum). Palm trunks may take several forms: solitary (butia), clustering (Serenoa repens), aerial branching, subterranean (acaulescent) or climbing – or a combination (Nannorrhops ritchieana). The trunk surface may be smooth or rough and may be totally or partially covered by leaf bases. Leaf bases may fall off the trunk (absciss) of their own accord or may be held for very prolonged periods. Leaf bases may be split (sabals) and/or crossed (Sabal palmetto and S. mexicana) or may be straight (brahea). A fibrous tomentum left from old leaf sheaths (bases) may hang about the trunk (Trachycarpus fortunei), or a tomentum may grow out of the trunk like cotton candy (N. ritchieana). The petioles may be long or short and may (butia) or may not (sabals) have teeth. Inflorescence lengths vary along with the color of the flowers (usually off-white or yellow) and the fruit (usually green, turning yellow, possibly then brown or black). Flowers may be dioecious (phoenix), monoecious (sabal) or hermaphrodite (Trithrinax campestris) – or a combination (T. fortunei). Palm leaves are extremely variable, though most are either fan-shaped (palmate) (Sabal tamaulipana) or feather-like (pinnate) (P. canariensis).

Despite that palms are apparently like cycads, such as (Cycas revoluta, or sago), the two groups are completely unrelated. Cycads are gymnosperms which of course means they reproduce using cones, not flowers as with palms. Cycad trunks (stems) contain meristem throughout such that only a piece is needed for propagation. Cycads have fleshy tap-like and secondary roots that extend in all directions. They have coralloidal roots near the surface that fix nitrogen and other nutrients. Another difference is that all parts of the cycad are deadly toxic, while the palm fruit or seed is usually nontoxic. Despite toxicity, cycads are a source of food mainly as flour from processed seeds (e.g. arrowroot from Zamia floridana, coontie). Yet the economic benefit is limited. On the other hand, the economic benefit from palms is substantial. Fruits (Butia capitata), dates (Phoenix dactylifera), and seeds (Cocos nucifera) are a huge source of food around the globe. Palm leaves are used extensively for thatching and clothing; coconut husk is a common soil amendment.

The Garden – The palm collection at Peckerwood Garden is quite diverse both regionally and taxonomically. They are both very cold hardy and either xeric or dry-side mesic. They are planted in every section of the garden and throughout the undeveloped property where they depend solely on rainfall. The conservation status of palms at Peckerwood Garden either has not been assessed or is of least concern unless otherwise noted.

Phoenix canariensis: Dioecious. Endemic Canary I. To 120 ft. Sun. Zone 9. Black thin edible date.
Sabal mexicana: Critically endangered in the US. Monoecious. TX-MX-C.A. 50 ft. Zone 8. Edible black fruit. Xeric. The last native groves of Texas palmetto are in the Audubon Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary in Cameron County.
Sabal minor: Monoecious. NC-TX. Partial sun/light shade. Moist. 5 ft. Acaulescent with below ground 5 ft. trunk. Zone 8. Short midrib. Small black fruit.
Butia odorata: Monoecious. Dry savannah S.A. Dry 15 ft. Sun/PS. Zone 8. Yellow edible fruit. Xeric.
Butia capitata: Monoecious. Dry savannah S.A. 20 ft. Sun/PS. Zone 8. Yellow edible fruit. Xeric.
Sabal uresana: Vuln. Monoecious. Endemic S. M. Occ. MX. in thorn forests and dry oak watercourses. 30 ft. Zone 8.
Brahea dulcis: Monoecious. Tex-Mex. 15 ft. Solitary, occasionally suckering. Slow growth. Xeric only. Zone 8.
Brahea decumbens x ?: Monoecious. Sierra Madre, MX. 3×10 ft. Sun. Cluster. Zone 8b. Very slow. Green to blue Xeric only.
x Butyagrus nabonnandii: Intergeneric Butia capitata x Syagrus romanzoffiana. Sterile: mule palm. 30 ft. Zone 8b.
Trithrinax campestris: Hermaphrodite. Savannah and upper elevations AR-UR. 12 ft. Slow. Xeric. Zone 8.
Nannorrhops ritchieana: Dioecious. YM-AF, elev. to 5000 ft. Sun. Zone 8. 20 ft. Aerial branch. Xeric. Usually, hapaxanthic. Arguably monotypic.
Sabal causiarum: Monoecious. Puerto Rico & Carib. 50 ft. Sun. Zone 8. Slow. Black fruit. To 4 ft. smooth gray trunk.
Sabal minor ‘Louisiana’: Caulescent form of S. minor possibly due to growth required to stay above deposited then subsided river soil. 12 ft. Slow. Zone 8 or better.
Sabal ‘Birmingham’: Origin unknown. 15-30 ft. Sun/PS. Slow. Zone 7.
Sabal bermudana: Endangered. Endemic Bermuda. 80 ft. Salt tolerant. Zone 8b. Fast.
Sabal tamaulipana: Monoecious. N.E. MX, elev. 1500 ft. 8 ft. Leaves 6ft. Yucca Do 1988. Zone 7b.
Brahea moorei: Monoecious. Endemic MX, S.M. Orient. Mid-high elev. Zone 8. 4 ft. Extremely slow. Solitary. Acaulescent. Purple fruit. Xeric. Silver abaxial.
Serenoa repens: Monoecious. TX-SC, every county in FL. 10 ft. Clustering, running, branching. Zone 8. Full sun to PS. Slow. Blue or blue-gray. Propagate by seed/rhizome/division. Xeric. Salt tolerance. Tough! Wildlife food. Sereno Watson. Monotypic.
Trachycarpus fortunei: Dioecious-Hermaphrodite. China-Japan. 20-50 ft. Zone 7. Fast. Part sun.
Chamaedorea radicalis: Dioecious. Tropical MX. Solitary. 4 ft. Very slow. Pinnate. Orange to red showy toxic fruit on young plants. Shade-PS. Dry mesic once est. Zone 8-11.
Livistona chinensis: Possibly invasive. Hermaphrodite. JA-TA-SCS. Solitary. 30 ft. Medium. Prodigious black fruit. Sun/part shade. Dry mesic, deep tap root. Zone 8b.
Rhapidophyllum hystrix: Dioecious, occas. herm. MS-SC. 6×8 ft. Sucker. Acaulescent. Spines at the base. Light shade. Zone 6. Propagate by seed/division. Mesic. Monotypic.
Guihaia argyrata: Dioecious. S. China/Viet. Cluster. 4 ft. Zone 8b. Shade/PS. Silver abaxial. Edible black fruit. Slow.
Chamaedorea microspadix: Dioecious. E. MX. Clustering. 8 ft. Pinnate. Zone 8. Shade. Orange/red toxic fruit.
Sabal x brazoriensis: Rare. S. minor x palmetto. Monoecious. Brazoria Co., TX. 20 ft. Zone 7b. Visit them in the Palm Unit of San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.
Brahea armata (across the creek): Monoecious. Baja, CA – NW. MX. Zone 8. Blue leaves. Sun/PS. Very long golden spadix. Moisture during dry periods.
Trithrinax acanthacoma: Hermaphrodite. SA savannah. Solitary wrapped in fibrous needled leaf bases. 20 ft. Forked spiked leaves. White/pale green fruit. Sun. Zone 8.
Brahea sp.:
Chamaerops humilis var. argentea: Usually dioecious. Morocco. Zone 7b. 12×15 ft. Silver leaf. Sun. Mid-elev. Xeric. Monotypic.

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Insider Tour – North Dry Garden

Insider Tour: North Dry Garden & Palm and Magnolia Circle

The area north of Dry Creek is home to some of the oldest plants in the garden since it is part of the original purchase. Here you’ll find a wide selection of magnolias, conifers, succulents and mahonias — many collected during trips to northeastern Mexico. Almost as interesting as the plants are the circuitous paths, the Blue Wall and other landscape features, such as steel step risers and lumber edging. Once a very sunny garden, now the area north of the creek is much shaded by pines, a Mexican oak, sweet gum and maples, which provides a challenge to the many succulents that reside below. Much of the ground is covered by Brazos pea gravel and river rock which evokes a heightened sensation of being in a non-traditional garden.

Araucaria angustifolia – Parana pine – most adaptable relative of true monkey puzzle and Norfolk pine.
Cryptomeria japonica – Japanese Cedar
Magnolia kwangtungensis – Chinese magnolia with beautiful rusty hairs on new leaves and pendulous flowers.
Ginkgo biloba
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Variegata’ – Variegated Southern Magnolia – mostly reverted to green
Clethra pringlei – Mexican Summesweet – John Fairey Mexican collection
Podocarpus matudae – Mexican Podocarpus – John Fairey collection from Mexico
Casimiroa pringlei – Pringle’s Sapote – small edible fruits, John Fairey introduction to cultivation. Original tree lost in 2016 floods.
Amyris texana – Texas Torchwood
Decatropis bicolor – John Fairey collection – citrus family but no edible fruit, just ornamental foliage/flowers
Yucca treculeana var. canaliculata – Imposing giant form of this species
Mahonia pallida – Mexican Pale Mahonia
Mahonia x media – Asian hyrid Mahonia
Clematis pitcheri – wide ranging and variable, most Texas plants are dark purple, this Mexican collection is light purple
Brahea moorei – Dwarf Rock Palm – One of John’s favorite palms, good planted in groups.
Chamaedorea radicalis – good hardy palm for shade
Torreya taxifolia – One of the rarest conifers in the word, from one small area in Florida, threatened by disease.
Torreya grandis – Chinese counterpart to our two US native Torreya species (FL and CA).
Cephalotaxus fortunei – Fortune’s Plum Yew
Magnolia biondii – Deciduous magnolia
Philadelphus sp. – a small leaved Mock Orange from Mexico.
Eryngium venustum – spiny leaved carrot relative that John collected in Mexico
Macrozamia sp. – Australian cycads
Zamia vasquezii – Mexican cycad
Cycas panzihuaensis – Chinese cycad
Agave bracteosa – Squid Agave
Roldana aschenbornianus – Mexican flowering shrub covered in yellow flowers in spring.
Illicium anisatum ‘Murasaki-no-sato’ (Purple Glaze Anise) – new growth purple, fades to green with light green variegation.
Dioon edule regional forms – Mexican cycads
Berberis lycium – very important in Chinese medicine, has proven to have numerous beneficial properties
Bouvardia ternifolia – Mexican collection – hummingbird magnet
Amorphophallus paeoniifolius – one of the “corpse flowers”
Quercus rysophylla – Loquat leaved oak – one of the largest individuals in the country
Justicia fulvicoma – Orange Shrimp Plant
Zamia pumila – Dominican Republic
Clethra pringlei – as seen earlier, but a huge specimen
Mahonia chochoca – Mexican collection with nice tree form, yellow winter flowers
Nolina nelsonii – original wild collections.
Mahonia sp. – new species discovered by John Fairey
Agave striata
Mahonia chochoca – Curly leaf form
Magnolia martinii – view from afar of the upright (fastigiated) form
Keteleeria davidiana – great heat tolerant conifer
Puya species – several species and hybrids in this area – some have jade green to aquamarine blue flowers
Brahea species – several unknown species – a very poorly studied genus
Neobuxbaumia polylopha – columnar cactus with reasonable humidity tolerance
Hechtia sp. – a giant xeric bromeliad collected in Puerto Purification, Mexico
Trithrinax campestris – Argentine Silver Thatch Palm
Sabal uresana – Sonoran Blue Palm
Magnolia tripetala x macrophylla – hybrid native deciduous bigleaf magnolia
Pinus pseudostrobus – Mexican smoothbark weeping pine
Liquidambar styraciflua – Mexican version of our native eastern US sweetgum
Liquidambar acalycina – Chinese Sweetgum
Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Rotundiloba’ – Interesting selection with round leaf lobe tips
Magnolia ashei – Rare localized species in FL
Taiwania cryptomerioides – beautiful heat/humidity tolerant conifer from Taiwan
Parrotia persica – deciduous tree with great peeling bark patterns, good yellow fall color
Exbucklandia populnea – Malayan Aspen – not a true aspen, but in the witch hazel family
Abies firma – Momi Fir – Japanese subtropical fir – takes heat/humidity
Carex socialis ‘Coahoma’ – beautiful native sedge for shade to partial sun
Cinnamomum chekiangense – hardy cinnamon
Magnolia officinalis var. biloba – notch-leaved magnolia
Machilus thunbergii – beautiful evergreen dense shrub
Magnolia laevifolius – small-leaved species, often sold under the old names M. dianica or M. yunnanensis
Magnolia grandiflora ‘DD Blanchard’
Keteleeria evelyniana
Cunninghamia unicanaliculata – long leaved “china fir”
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Emory’ – very tight columnar form
Magnolia insignis – famous for being a red flowering evergreen species

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Insider Tour – Early Winter Interest

Early Winter Interest Plants (Dec-Jan)

Prunus mume (Flowering Apricot)
• ‘Contorta’ – earliest flowering – around Christmas/early Jan –white with contorted branches
• ‘Pink Panther’ – double flower – mid-Jan
• Unknown white single –mid-Jan
Mahonia (Asian species and hybrids)
• Mahonia x media (many named but very similar cultivars
• Mahonia x lindsayae ‘Cantab’ – distinctive in that the leaves and inflorescences are weeping
• Various garden seedlings (hybrids)
Mahonia (Mexican species)
• Mahonia chochoca
• Mahonia sp. (soon to be named M. peckerwoodensis – north of creek)
Ilex (Hollies)
• Ilex x ‘Cherry Bomb’
• Ilex vomitoria ‘Saratoga Gold’
• Ilex intermedia (currently mislabeled I. purpurea)
• Ilex decidua (including ‘Finch’s Golden’)
• Ilex x ‘Miss Patricia’
• Various hybrids
Chiococca alba – white fruits if not subjected to hard freeze
Magnolia species and hybrids (a few starting to flower early/mid January)

Camellia sasanqua – various cultivars (fall – early winter flowering
Camellia japonica – various cultivars (winter-spring flowering)
Cephalotaxus harringtoniana ‘Korean Gold’
Acer oliverianum var. formosanum – red fall color late Dec to Feb depending on conditioning
Acer skutchii – Mexican Sugar Maple – yellow to orange foliage Jan to Feb
Acer palmatum – Red to yellow December – January
Acer discolor – orange late December to January
Lindera angustifolia – Yellow foliage turns a clean copper color (dead but still ornamental), retained on tree
Lindera glauca – similar to L. angustifolia, but leaves shorter
Diospyros palmeri – holds pepper-like persimmons through winter
Chionanthus retusus – yellow fall color Dec-Jan, dropping to reveal nice branching architecture
Taxodium ascendens – after leaves drop long pendant clusters of male cones persist, hanging from branch tips
Rohdea japonica – evergreen groundcover with showy red winter fruits
Ruscus aculeatus (self-fruiting variety) best fruit set in winter, but can have fruits other times of year.
Loropetalum cv’s – pink flowers Jan-March
Euonymus myrianthus – showy yellow fruits split open to reveal red seeds
Pyrus kawakamii – flowering mid Jan (2017). Rare species of pear from Taiwan, not edible
Ulmus alata ‘Lace Parasol’ – when leafless the contorted, weeping branches are shown off best.

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Sixth Annual Taking Root Luncheon a Success, 2019

6th Annual Taking Root luncheon

Our sixth annual Taking Root luncheon, held last month at the Junior League in Houston, was another success. I hope you were one of the lucky guests who got to hear Tony Avent speak at the luncheon. If you didn’t, you missed a dynamic and entertaining presentation in which Tony made a very compelling argument for the importance of supporting Peckerwood Garden, noting that many of the plants at the garden either no longer exist in the wild or are not easily accessible in dangerous or remote areas.
Here I quote Tony: “John Fairey’s Peckerwood Garden houses one of the most important ex-situ plant collections of Mexican germplasm in the US, representing over 30 years and over 100 botanizing expeditions into Northern Mexico.” We’ll share more of Tony’s advocacy for the garden next month in our year-end ask. His enthusiasm for the garden and its horticultural significance is gratifying and inspires us to do all we can to conserve the garden and John Fairey’s vision.

Like Tony Avent, Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator and Director of Outreach, Denver Botanic Garden and our most recent Saturday morning speaker, praised Peckerwood Garden for its rare depth of scientific and botanical value, and noted that ‘today the “Peckerwood style” has permeated gardens across the Continental United States and beyond.’

We hope you’ll visit the garden soon to see for yourselves what Tony and Panayoti are talking about. Your next chance will be our Insider’s Tour on Saturday, December 7th at 10 am where you can experience the garden in all its autumnal splendor. We hope to see you there.

— Randy Twaddle, President

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Insider Tour – Conifers

Conifer – Member of coniferales order. Cone bearing, needle or scale-like leaves, resinous sap, wind pollinated
Tour themes: Effects of lighting on tree form. Heat tolerance. Leaf shape and rigidity. Soil preference.
Juniperus virginiana ‘Glauca Compacta’. Dioecious
Taxodium mucronatum (Montezuma Cypress) – Female cones smaller, disjoint range (disagreement), evenly distributed stoma, knees rare, drops branches in dry periods. Monoecious
Cupressus lusitanica – Central Mexico down to El Salvador. Mixed conifer, oak, clethra forests with ericaceous and theaceous shrub. On cliffs with steep drainage. Monoecious
Cupressus funebris – Vietnam, S. China
Juniperus flaccida – Central Mexico to Big Bend, Texas. Smaller tree, female.
Pinus sp. ‘Weeping’ – Ted Doreumus, 2015. Monoecious
Pinus taeda ‘J. C. Raulston’ – Ted Doremus, 2007
Taxodium ascendans ‘Prairie Sentinel’
Taxodium distichum ‘Wooster Broom’ Incorrectly labeled dwarf 5’ x 5’.
Taxodium distichum ‘Peve Minaret’
Juniperus rigida ‘Pendula’ – to about 15 ft. Strongly upward young branches, then mopped down. Rigid leaves.
Cryptomeria japonica ‘Gokoryu’ Location important
Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’
Taxus chinensis – dioecious. Spirally arranged leaves with a flat base.
Abies firma – Bright green adaxial, gray-green abaxial, warm temperate to cool. Root stock.
Thujopsis dolobrata – Monotypical genus. Location and light important. Conical to shrubby. Water.
Removed Cryptomeria japonica ‘Albaspica’ – Location important, white new growth in sun.
Taxus wallichiana – Recent microbiological studies different species.
Podocarpus matudae – Variable species from Eastern Mexico to Guatemala. Water climate, high rainfall and specific microbiome.
Taxodium distichum – knees
Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Recently discovered critically endangered. Shortest redwood. Deciduous like Taxodium. Morphologically unchanged for 65 million years. Like wet climates, but can tolerate some dry weather, but maybe not Texas drought.
Pinus pseudostrobus – yellow softwood pine from central Mexico to Guatemala.
Taxus chinensis – Sparsely branched in shade.
Taxus chinensis – Shrubby and leggy in too much sun.
Cupressus arizonica var glabra ‘Raywood’s Weeping’ – could benefit from some trimming of branch tips.
Pinus taeda ‘Nana’
Araucaria angustifolia – dioecious
Cupressus funebris
Keteleeria fortunei
Keteleeria davidiana – monoecious
Keteleeria pubescens
Taxus chinensis – Densely branched in sun.

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2019 Topics

Peckerwood Garden Lecture Series Topics

Peckerwood Garden Insider Tour Topics

  • September 21, TBD
December 21, TBD
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An Exciting and Productive Seed Collecting Expedition in Central Texas

Bill, Boyce and Tess collecting seed, herbarium specimens, and associated collecting data.

Less than a week after our oak collecting trip through the Trans-Pecos region (see last newsletter), I barely settled in before I was off with a new group of collaborators for a two week journey from the southern “Hill Country” northward to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Organized by Boyce Tankersley from Chicago Botanic Garden through the “Plant Collecting Collaborative” (PCC), other participants were Bill McLaughlin from the United States Botanic Garden in Washington D.C. and Tess Kuracina from Chanticleer.

Peckerwood and Chanticleer have a great history working together, and this was a wonderful resumption of our collaborations. Through segments of the trip, two of the state’s great botanists would join us – George Yatskievych, director of the herbarium at University of Texas at Austin, and Bob O’Kennon from Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth. Our mission was to collect seeds of plants of horticultural and conservation significance for distribution to other participating gardens of the PCC. After the team arrived in Houston, the requisite visit to Peckerwood was in order, and that afternoon we set off for our first site in the southern Edward’s Plateau west of San Antonio. We didn’t get far because Boyce wanted seeds from Texas bluebells ( Eustoma grandiflora), and so off we went to a location near Brenham where I recently saw plants. Fruits were questionably too early for harvest, but our first collection of the trip would hopefully continue maturation in the cooler and be dried later.

George joined us in San Antonio for a quick dinner before continuing on our track for the Gesundheit Ranch, a 1,000-acre piece of botanic and geologic heaven between Sabinal and Concan along the southern edge of the Hill Country. Owned by Peckerwood supporter Caroline Schreiber and family, this remote, well-maintained ranch never fails to surprise me as to its tremendous diversity of plant life. I had never been this time of year and was looking forward to collecting seeds of some things I had seen in flower during earlier visits.

Matalea reticulata in the southern Hill Country near Leakey, TX.

We were treated to a wonderful sunset between the rugged limestone hills as we drove through several ranches to get to the Schreibers’ ranch. Everyone was up early after a night’s sleep in the bunkhouse, and with our coffee in hand the collections began in the immediate vicinity of the dwellings. Though common to many Texans, the group from points beyond was excited to find its first Texas mountain laurel, and seeds were collected. Though common in cultivation, these were of value to botanic gardens that prefer seeds from known wild source, accompanied by GPS coordinates, site conditions, associated plants and additional details making these collections scientifically valuable. We also pressed specimens for drying to deposit in two or more herbaria. I had to laugh when they collected seeds of ball moss ( Tillandsia recurvata), but again, these are of interest to those who come from places where they are not weeds.


Styrax platanifolius at Fort Hood.

Breakfast was supplemented with sampling of Texas persimmon ( Diospyros texana), which seemed to be a hit among the group despite staining their mouths black. We left the ranch headquarters to see a site I remembered from previous visits along a crystal clear stream lined with a variety of moisture-loving plants. Unfortunately the lack of summer rain had reduced the stream to a few stagnant puddles in the lowest areas. The lush ferns I had remembered were mostly shriveled and dormant, but several fronds were collected for their spores. A diminutive yet striking plant drew attention along the stream’s shores. Galphimia angustifolia is composed of a dense cluster of wiry upright stems topped with flowers in various shades of yellow, orange and red depending on their age, particularly captivating when back lit by the sun. Tess already was considering where she wanted to plant this at Chanticleer, and I agreed it should be investigated further for use in smaller gardens.

Festive lighting for nocturnal herbarium specimen pressing at High Hope Ranch near Glen Rose.

My 5-month old truck earned plenty of new battle scars barging through jagged rocky paths overgrown with thorny shrubbery. Eventually we couldn’t go any farther and hiked the rest of the way to a more wooded spot I remember having a nice mix of the powder blue colored Lacey oak ( Quercus laceyi) and the coveted yellow-flowered variant of the red buckeye ( Aesculus pavia var. flavescens). Q. laceyi had plenty of acorns as did Texas red oak ( Q. buckleyi). The buckeyes already had defoliated but still were bearing the large pendulous fruits on nearly every branch tip. We found some Eve’s Necklace ( Styphnolobium affine – formerly Sophora affinis) which appears to be a new record for Uvalde County and perhaps the southernmost record. We drove north to Leakey to have dinner and then visited a stretch of road to the west where we happily collected seed from the abundant cones of Pinus remota. Here they seemed to have had some recent rain, and the roadside was alive with wildflowers, including the beautiful, rather localized Asclepias texana. Another stretch was red with Salvia roemeriana, and one small roadside meadow contained a wonderful mix of S. farinacea, two Solanum species, and Mexican Hats ( Ratibida columnifera) in a variety of colors and forms.


Collecting seeds of a Polanisia sp . in the dry riverbed of the Frio River, Kneuper Ranch.

Along the treeline, Bill found the reticulated climbing milkweed ( Matalea reticulata) bearing its delicately pattered flowers. With dusk approaching, we made a beeline back south as Caroline had put us in touch with Bill Cofer at the nearby Annandale Ranch, home of the famous Frio Bat Cave. Bill had generously granted us access to view the bats emerging from the cave entrance. This is the second largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats in the world, with an estimated population in the tens of millions.

The very localized Yucca necopina at High Hope Ranch near Glen Rose, TX.

An undulating ribbon of bats flowed from the entrance for what seemed like an eternity, with hawks periodically diving into the mass for dinner. I’ve seen thousands of bats emerge from other caves, but witnessing millions was quite an amazing experience for everyone. The next day was devoted to exploring the rest of Annandale Ranch, but first we stopped at the neighboring Kneuper Ranch, also owned by Caroline’s family members. A dry stretch of the Frio River passed through here, and highlights collected were Anisacanthus wrightii – abundantly grown in Texas yet surprisingly uncommon in the wild. We found a species of Lycium growing in the shade, a new county record for the genus.


Eryngium leavenworthii at Fort Hood.

In contrast to the Kneuper Ranch, the stretch of the Frio River that passed through the Annandale Ranch had beautifully clear flowing water and was lined with some impressive bald cypress. Though books and some DNA studies claim these are simply a westernmost population of Taxodium distichum, the lack of “knees” (distinctive growth habit) and other characteristics more closely resemble those of the Montezuma cypress, Taxodium mucronatum. Along the shores also grew the beautiful Juglans microcarpa, a native walnut that makes an attractive small tree, and a mysterious willow that doesn’t seem to readily match any of the known species of Salix in this region.

John Roberson’s amazing ranch offered terrific plants adapted to the local sandstone and granite in addition to the panoramic views.

We parted ways with George and spent one last night at the Gesundheit Ranch before some more roadside collecting en route to the Fredricksburg region. There we visited two properties, both owned by acquaintances of Boyce. Being rather dry, we saw lots of interesting things but they lacked seed, so little was collected, but we got a diversity of S. farinacea seeds and plenty of acorns from Bigelow oak ( Q. sinuata var. breviloba). We were all looking forward to our next site, a ranch owned by former Peckerwood board member John Roberson in the Llano Uplift region of central Texas. This geologic feature is an “island” of granite and sandstone among the surrounding sea of limestone that makes up the Hill Country. With a more acidic soil, this is an oasis of plants that tend to prefer less alkaline conditions, and several interesting endemics occur isolated here. On the drive to his ranch, we spotted one of our trip’s targets, Lindheimer’s ironweed ( Vernonia lindheimeri) with its silvery foliage topped with plenty of seed heads that were formerly electric purple flowers.


A sea of Salvia azurea in Cedar Hill State Park.

John and his dog led us around the various habitats on his spectacular ranch. Though mostly shriveled and dormant, the fern and Selaginella diversity was high. Bill was happy to finally find Parthenocissus heptaphylla in fruit, which unlike its abundant relative, Virginia creeper, which bears five leaflets, this species is larger statured and holds seven leaflets which are abruptly jagged toward the tip. Another vine we were pleased to see was Passiflora affinis, but unfortunately without fruits.


John led us into a riparian area with unexpected westernmost populations of more easterly trees like Q. shumardii. The non-Texans in the group preferred the mustang grapes ( Vitis mustangensis) over the semi-ripe fruits of Prunus mexicana and were collecting everyone’s spit-out grape seeds.

A nice Pinus remota with pendulous tips.

Our sights were set on collecting some interesting things known to occur in the natural areas on the Fort Hood property near Killeen. We slammed on brakes when we found our first Eryngium leavenworthii in flower along a back road. It appeared as if someone spray painted the foliage of a thistle royal purple, the intense colors captivated us until we finally collected some seed. Further down the road we found a nice colony of the baby blue Yucca pallida loaded with seeds.


The following morning we went through background checks for security clearance to enter Fort Hood.

A cypress-lined stretch of the Frio River on the Annandale Ranch that held water.

George reconvened with us, and soon we were met by Carla Picinich, a biologist for the military property, who we had learned had been working nights doing deer counts in preparation for the fall hunt quotas. We felt bad that she was going to spend the next two days with us, meaning 48 hours with little to no sleep just to help us access our target species. On the eastern edge of the Hill Country near Waco, the Fort Hood property has several unusual plants we were seeking. One was the easternmost and highly disjunct population of of bigtooth maples ( Acer grandidentatum), second was the sycamor-leaved silverbell, Styrax platanifolius, and another was Croton alabamensis var. texensis. The latter species has leaf undersides colored a metallic silver and has a very strange distribution in a few restricted spots in Alabama and a few sites in Texas.

The maples and Styrax were abundant in the right micro-climates in the Owl Creek Mountains (really hills), but seed was eluding us. Finally we found one specimen of each species with an acceptable amount of seed. A bonus was finding the red-flowered Clematis texensis loaded with seed. The site with the croton was very parched, the wilted plants showing no signs of fruiting this year, but it was exciting to finally see the Texas form in the wild.

Tess, George and Boyce walking among giant bald cypresses near the Frio River, Annandale Ranch.

We bid farewell to George, and aimed toward our next base of operations at High Hope Ranch near Glen Rose, which offers some wonderful guest houses and caters to visiting nature lovers. When owner Sandy Skrei learned of our plans, she invited the local master naturalists and other key folks out to botanize with us and even organized a wonderful dinner with additional enthusiasts from the region. Highlights collected here included the Glen Rose yucca ( Yucca necopina) which is only found in a handful of counties in this region. Near the ranch, we were taken to a significant, and likely northernmost population of Styrax platanifolius that was loaded with seed. It was fascinating to comb through the dozens of individuals displaying a wide diversity of leaf shapes.


The largest Quercus sinuata var. breviloba I have ever seen, with Bill McLaughlin for scale, at Dogwood Canyon Preserve.

Reaching the northerly limits of our expedition, we arrived in the southern outskirts of the Dallas region at Dogwood Canyon Preserve operated by the Audubon Society. Here we met up with Bob O’Kennon from Botanical Research Institute of Texas who had been doing a floristic inventory of this diverse spot. Located in the “cross timbers” region where eastern and western trees mix, the preserve is named after the presence of one of the westernmost populations of flowering dogwood, Cornus florida. We collected abundant seeds of the northerly populations of Mexican buckeye, ( Ungnadia speciosa) in hopes they might be adaptable to other colder locations.


Later in the day we headed to Cedar Hill State Park, where we joined by Sam Kieschnick, urban wildlife biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He took us to a prairie restoration project that was full of fascinating plants, most noticeably a sea of 6-foot tall Salvia azurea in full bloom. Rosa foliolosa was flaunting its red hips, and a large species of penstemon was begging us to take its seeds. Another site that included a wetland restoration project was carpeted by halberd-leaf rosemallow ( Hibiscus laevis). Generally white with red centers, there was considerable variability with some light red to dark purple centers, snowy white to pink blushed petals, and even one with unusual pink “brush strokes.” Seeds were collected to capture the diversity, and I collected cuttings to preserve the more distinctive forms.

Bob O’Kennon gave the group a tour of BRIT, and afterwards we strolled through Fort Worth Botanical Garden with director Bob Byers and explored its significant collection of begonia species and hybrids with Don Miller who oversees the collection. On the way back to Houston, we stopped for some roadside collecting. Boyce, who enjoys bulbs, was happy when I found a stretch of roadside loaded with Habranthus tubispathus, and later Zephyranthes peduncularis. Near Navasota we collected Echinacea atrorubens from a prairie remnant and some Baptisia nuttalliana and B. bracteata seeds to embellish Chicago Botanic Garden’s large collection of this genus. Rounding out the final collections of the trip were some easy access Q. falcata and Q. incana.

Back in Houston, the seeds and herbarium presses were shipped to Chicago for processing and distribution to PCC participants. We stayed up past midnight organizing our field notes for a detailed narrative of the trip before Boyce, Tess and Bill each flew home. A lot of ground was covered interacting with a lot of wonderful people, all resulting in a lot of important collections that will be prominently featured in the collections of a number of U.S. botanic gardens.

— Adam Black