Friday, November 11, 2011

Acer henryi in the Asian Collections at the US National Arboretum

Now I've gone and violated my own prohibition on posting pictures that weren't taken the day of the post. Oh well. The top picture was taken Wednesday, the other two Thursday.

Acer henryi is a Chinese maple that's very uncommon in cultivation. During the growing season, it displays remarkable pendulous racemes of flowers followed by seeds. The Asian Collectiion has plants from two/three NACPEC trips. The tree in the middle picture grew from seeds collected in 1980 by Dr. Ted Dudley, an Arboretum Botanist, and others in the Shennongjia Forest District, in Hubei Province. The collection notes record picturesquely the seed was from a "Contorted, stnnted tree hanging over cliff above stream." Cool! From this collection we have two trees. The plant in the middle picture with yellow fall foliage grows between Hickey Hill Road and the path from the parking area. The second, much larger, is sited at the intersection of the path to the Pagoda and the cut through to China Valley. This accession has attractive yellow fall foliage.

In 2002, Carole Bordelon, the present Curator of the Collection, went on a NACPEC trip to Shaanxi Province. This time the collection notes describe a "mesic, mixed deciduous forest; seedlings growing in dry river bed; open, sunny. Growing in association with Carpinus, Pteroceltis, Sinowilsoniiana, Taxus chinensis. They collected 19 seedlings. The small tree in the top and bottom pictures is the product of this trip. The fall color on this plant makes an already good plant only better!

In 2008, Chris Carley represented the USNA on a NACPEC collecting trip to Gansu Province. We germinated this collection and have 19 plants at present. A few of them are approaching 3 feet in height and exhibited a good bit of red pigmentation in the spring when their leaves were young. I chose the darkest one and planted it in the collection at the top of China Valley. As of Thursday afternoon, yesterday, it hadn't developed fall color, though I did note that portions of two leaves had turned dark red. I will, of course, continue to monitor it as well as the plants in our growing area.

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