Monday, November 7, 2011

Oaks suspiciously absent from list of slow growers

I have quoted J. Russell Smith's rant on poets and oaks ad infinitum, the gist of which is that oaks should sue poets for libel since poets universally use the oak as a metaphor for all things slow but solid (essentially casting oaks in the role of the tortoise in an arboreal version of the Tortoise and the Hare).

I just came across this.

The Morton Arboretum in Chicago planted a wide variety of trees, all of which were 10 feet tall at planting time (when of course what they should have been doing - if they wanted those trees to live a long, healthy life - is planting trees a lot closer to 10 inches tall, but that's another post for another day).  10 years later they measured the trees. 

Trees that were more than 25 feet tall 10 years after planting were classified as fast growing.  These included American elm and silver maple.  "Moderately fast growing trees measured 18 to 25 feet tall. These included Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica), Thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis) , Linden (Tilia platyphyllos, T. cordata, T. xeuchlora 'Redmond', and T. tomentosa), English Oak (Quercus robur), Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), Sawtooth Oak (Quercus acutissima), Shingle Oak (Quercus imbricaria), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), and Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)."

There's a whole lot of Quercus in that list, right alongside green ash and honeylocust... although how a major arboretum managed to somehow limit the growth of sawtooth oak and pin oak to just two feet per year causes me to serious question their horticultural acumen.  Did they plant them in the parking lot??

"Slower growing trees were less than 18 feet tall after 10 years. These included European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra), Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), Norway Maple (Acer platanoides), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea). "

So the list of slow growers is pretty much a Quercus-free zone.

OK, I just figured out how these people were able to limit oaks to 2ft of growth per year.  People who manage less than 1ft of growth per year on Norway maple shouldn't even be allowed to grow oaks!  Good grief, in Minnesota I had Norway maple volunteers in my flower garden reaching head height in one summer from seed if I let them (trust me, I didn't let them).

But my point - besides taking gratuitous pot shots at a highly respected horticultural institution - stands:  Ask any 20 people on the street which trees they would expect to see in a list of slow growers and every last one of them would say oaks.

Damn poets.

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