Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nature's last green is gold

Of course, Robert Frost is right about the first green: but green turns gold again in the fall, and this autumn is shaping up pretty nicely right now. Green ash and even some cottonwoods are bright yellow around town, and the first Autumn blaze maples and Autumn purple ash are bright red and purple in the distance from my front room window. The Ohio buckeyes, which often turn orange and scarlet in September, are only now doing their thing...what a gratifying, late autumn. But the apple of my eye right now (so to speak: sounds better than saying birch of my eye) is the ten year old Himalayan birch that crowns the waterfall in the rock garden at home. It is a neutral green much of the year, but for a week in the fall it glows gold and justifies its pride of place. It's getting a tad tall, and I keep thinking I ought to take it out (its roots are probably wreaking havoc with the waterfall) but now the trunk is getting gnarly and white barked [see below], and it's forming a graceful shape that with a little shaping could be enhanced even further...maybe I need to invite Harold Sasaki or Jerry Morris over for lunch some day soon....

This year, for the first time, it has set a lot of seed. I collected an envelope full, and more is ripening: I wonder if it will be viable? There are no other birches that I know of in the neighborhood so theoretically it could be true (assuming the seed is viable of course)...if you look carefully at the picture above you can see the interesting dark seedpods, as well as next spring's flower buds in waiting. What a cool little plant...

I've had the thing so long...I grew it from seed from either Josef Jurasek or Mojmir Pavelka, collected in western China. I shall have to dig back through my records and see if I can get any more info: I don't believe they had a species name on it. It looks like a tiny microform of Betula utilis, although in size and habit it is much more like our native B. glandulosa--although much more delicate. Betula glandulosa in our mountains can often be a fiery orange or even scarlet: it would be fun to hybridize them, wouldn't it? I've not had much luck with miniature birches, so having this one is compensation. If you'd like a pinch of seed, just email your address to me at and I'll post you some.

1 comment:

  1. PK, You could also invite me back!! I would love to try some seed too. Glen


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