Posts Tagged Poinsettia Tree
The first heat wave of our not-yet-officially-summer season is well underway, alas. And the thunderstorms that doused many neighborhoods near me missed my house. Entirely. As in, no rain. At all.
Wonder Spouse and I are doling out water carefully to the vegetables and a few tender transplants, but otherwise, all we can do is hunker down in the shade and pray for rain.
So far, the veggies are doing great, and I’ll provide updates soon. But today I wanted to share with my fellow piedmonters a few of the shrubs and trees that you can grow to continue your spring bloom period in your landscape well into summer.
First up is that lovely flower known to all southerners — Southern Magnolia. Technically, it’s native to more southern parts of the US, but it thrives here.
My 50-foot specimen has been blooming for several weeks, and continues to perfume the heavy near-summer air every morning as the Yellow-billed Cuckoo tries to call the rain with its “kowp-kowp-kowp” call. The fragrance is especially intoxicating in the evening as fireflies flicker among the trees and Eastern Whip-poor-wills call repeatedly from a clearing on the other side of our creek.
On the floodplain, the Poinsettia Tree (also called Fever Tree) is displaying its flower-like, showy bracts.
The showy bracts are evident when the tree is viewed more closely:
My native Oakleaf Hydrangeas are almost in full flower now. I grow “Peewee,” which is supposed to remain no taller than four feet. I’m not sure mine know that.
Flower clusters on the Oakleaf Hydrangeas are about the size of a volley ball.
A non-native shrub that is favored by bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds is my pink abelia. I’ve forgotten the variety name, but this shrub blooms for at least six weeks. The flowers are fragrant, especially first thing in the morning.
The heat has made my non-native Chindo viburnums bloom faster than I like, but they’re still putting out flowers. I have two specimens growing side by side. These non-native, evergreen shrubs (really small trees) are at least 15 feet tall, probably more like 20 feet. Their flower clusters routinely attract an astonishing diversity of pollinators, and the shiny evergreen leaves look handsome year round.
The native Sourwoods (Oxydendrum arboreum) are just starting to open their graceful flower clusters. This four-season understory native should be part of every piedmonter’s landscape.
A native that is just finishing its bloom period is Elderberry. You can see this shrubby tree growing in almost any wet spot in the landscape. Mine line the creek that borders our property, providing food for wildlife.
The Smoketree (Cotinus x ‘Grace’) in my yard is a cross between a European species and a North American native, and now that it’s grown to a height of about 25 feet, it takes my breath away every year. It does look a bit like smoke, doesn’t it — or pink cotton candy perhaps? Technically, those are not the flowers. The flower clusters are relatively inconspicuous. Its the seed clusters that steal the show with this tree.
Those are not all the woody plants currently blooming in my yard, but it’s a fair sample. I’ll share more another time.
In my part of the southeastern piedmont, there’s really no reason you can’t have blooming plants in your landscape year-round. Every piedmonter with a yard should take advantage of this fortunate fact to enhance their landscapes with perpetual color and fragrance.
When you look at the flowers closely, you can see why one of this rare southeastern native tree’s common names is Poinsettia Tree. The showy sepals, which can range in color from white to pink to deep rose, do remind one of the showy bracts of Christmas poinsettias. But this tree is not related to poinsettias; it’s actually a cousin of another of my favorite summer-blooming shrubs — Buttonbush, which I’ll feature when it blooms.
Pinckneya pubens (formerly P. bracteata) is native to swamp and creek edges of southern Georgia and northern Florida, with a few occurrences noted in the southern tip of South Carolina. Obviously, it’s not quite a southeastern Piedmont native. However, I’d seen this species growing in a couple of local botanical gardens, and I was intrigued by the showy, long-lasting sepals that give this tree a blooming presence when few other trees (except Southern Magnolias) are flowering. When I researched its native habitat, I realized my yard’s creek edge on the floodplain that flows into a wetland was probably as close to ideal growing conditions as it was likely to find.
I was right. My tree is about fifteen years old now, and it’s about 15 feet tall. It’s been blooming reliably for a number of years. As you can see in the close-up above, my tree’s sepals are pink-tinged white. You can actually buy named cultivars of this species that are guaranteed to give you the color you want. I went with a seed-grown specimen, and its color suits me fine. In fact, the lighter tint of the sepals probably helps them stand out in the shade provided by tall sycamores and maples nearby. My tree grows right on the edge of the creek; when the creek floods, this tree is surrounded by fast-moving water, which, if anything, just makes it grow taller.
I’ve read that cold temperatures (around zero degrees Fahrenheit) will kill the tree to the ground, but it usually will resprout from the roots. So far, mine has flourished, despite some pretty cold temperatures, including prolonged ice storms.
The seeds of this tree are contained in big roundish brown capsules that provide visual interest to the winter landscape. Here’s a shot that shows flowers, leaves, and the previous year’s seed capsules:
Other common names for this species are Fevertree and Georgia Bark. These names refer to the fact that the inner bark was used long ago to treat malaria and other fevers.
I’ve read that Pinckneya won’t thrive in heavy wet clay. It wants sandier wet soils, which is what my creek edge provides. If you’ve got a similar wet spot in your yard that’s protected by high shade, you might want to give this southeast native a try. It’s a great conversation starter when you’re walking folks around the yard. After all, you generally don’t see what looks like a 15-foot tall poinsettia blooming in June in the southeastern Piedmont.