Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ilex x attenuata aurea and Ilex vomitoria...two lovely native hollies

Strictly speaking the gold fruited selection is a hybrid between two native hollies, Ilex cassine and Ilex opaca. The red berries belong to Ilex vomitoria, or Yaupon. Yaupon is a southern holly as is Ilex cassine. Neither is widely distributed this far north, but both are hardy here. As climate changes bring warmer winters farther north, these two SE taxa may be reasonable choices as far north as coastal New England.

Ilex macrocarpa...I bet you've never seen this plant before!

Hey, I know I never have. Its an Asian deciduous holly, and though the scale isn't obvious from the the picture, the fruits are large, right around a half inch in diameter. One of the nice things about working at the National Arboretum is the regular opportunities I am afforded to see plants I have never seen before. I guess its a bit embarrassing to admit that I have been driving past this particular plant for the last 4 years without noticing it, but in my own defense, it is a bit nondescript until the fruit appear and this is the first year it has fruited. I would love to add information about it but, while it is not ungoogleable (bad word, sorry), I found nothing other than the fact that it is on some lists and planted in a few other gardens. Well, it seems happy in an exposed position in the warm part of USDA Zone 7 and it has cool fruit~

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Now we're pointed in the right direction

Whatever winter festival you celebrate: Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, or something else, there is no denying that it is good to pass the Solstice. They days are getting longer....slowly; we gained 2 seconds on the 22nd, 6 seconds today, 10 seconds on the 24th and it just keeps getting better. Actually, I guess its not even a bad time for residents on the other side of the equator...mid-summer?

Daylength is a funny thing; it's assymetrical; sunrise and sunset change at different rates. The earliest time for sunset in the DC area is 4:46 and we sit on that for almost two weeks. Sunset has already moved 5 minutes in the right direction. The problem is that sunrise hasn't reached its latest time (it will rise at 7:27 December 31) so, while we are adding sunlight in the afternoon, we are still losing it in the morning. Anyway, post-Solstice, we are making net daily gains even though they are at this point very small ones. Baby steps, but by the 8th of January we will be gaining a minute a day and it gets better after that until we reach the Summer Solstice.