November 2017 Newsletter
Thank you friends for your support!
Peckerwood Garden is funded entirely by donation. We appreciate the support of our members, guests, donors, and friends. If you want to know more about projects at the garden, events happening, and how you can get involved please contact us.
Adam’s Notes from the Garden
Above: Progress with our irrigation system remediation! Soon we will be propagating and filling the nursery with interesting plants again!

below: Cacti in the evening spotlight in the south dry garden
Aside from the refreshing fall weather, the C amellias are doing their thing, and the masses of flowering Farfugium japonicum are painting drifts of yellow across the woodland garden.  

In addition to enjoying the end-of-year beauty, we look forward to the future. As our nursery watering situation is being improved, I can’t wait to set up a mist propagation system and start offering the many exciting plants in Peckerwood’s collection. 

While one well dried up and a second proved too high in sodium, fortunately our retention pond (aka “tank” in Texas lingo) is basically one big rain barrel, and the water quality has proven to be pristine. Generous folks had been donating to our nursery water remediation efforts, but most recently a very generous supporter is making it happen with professional grade equipment. As a backup to this system, we have an array of large above-ground storage tanks in which we will store emergency water for use during drought conditions. So we’re excited about developing our Peckerwood nursery.

Many longtime supporters of Peckerwood were also customers of Yucca Do Nursery, which sadly closed this summer. Nursery manager Wade Roitsch has donated nursery benches, supplies and some remaining stock that we will offer for sale at Peckerwood, including some interesting selections of Agave, Dyckia, Aloe and various other cacti and succulents. Some exciting stock plant specimens he passed on to us also will provide progeny that will appear in our sales area in the future. This will allow us to at least perpetuate some of the unique plants once available only at Yucca Do.
Earlier this month, Peckerwood was proud to host The Cycad Society for its annual meeting, which included attendees from cycad-growing hotbeds of both coasts. Following some great presentations and a cycad-oriented tour of Peckerwood was the much-anticipated auction. Over 50 specimens, some quite difficult to find in cultivation, fetched bargain closing bids. The society donated a group of specimens of the distinctive Cycas micholitzii to Peckerwood to add to our increasing collection of this prehistoric family of plants. 

Back in the garden, our winter interest plants are preparing for their time in the spotlight. Our unmatched collection of Mexican Mahonia species, along with their Asian counterparts, are producing copious buds that will translate to a succession of yellow to cream colored flowers over the next few months. Also budding are various Magnolias among a mix of holly species already festooned with their showy fruits. Our Loropetalum specimens, which are often a surprise to visitors in their tree form, have started producing some hot pink flowers, but we will surely see a better show in another month or so.
Above: A beautiful Hechtia sp. was among many wonderful plants generously donated to Peckerwood from the former Yucca Do Nursery

Below: Craig Nazor auctioning another rare cycad that went for a great deal at The Cycad Society's annual meeting held Peckerwood
Above: Our weeping oak, a mutant form of a Mexican live oak, at sundown

Below: The identity of this  Quercus sp. from the San Carlos Mountains is still being debated!
It will be interesting to see how our various selections of flowering apricot ( Prunus mume) perform this coming year. With minimal chill hours last year, they were already pre-conditioned to flower nicely but then leafed out very erratically, some mostly bare with only a few branches bearing leaves over the summer. They surely won’t have enough energy to flower this year. One notable exception that may prove to be a low-chill selection is the cultivar ‘Pink Panther’. We have two individuals, both of which flowered well last winter and then leafed out fully. Though we would love to test how consistently it performs without significant chilling, we’d rather just get back to experiencing a normal winter, if there is such a thing, and get all of our flowering apricot selections reliably flowering in profusion.
  • Sat, November 25, 2017, Open Day10 am - 3 pm
  • Sat, December 2, 2017, Early Winter Interest Peckerwood Insider's Tour, 10 am
  • Sat, December 16, 2017, Monthly Docent Training, 10 am - 12 pm (Volunteers and Members)
  • Sat, December 16, 2017, CANCELED, Evening at Peckerwood Garden Lecture, 5 pm
  • Sat, December 23, 2017, Open Day, 10 am - 3 pm
  • Sat, January 6, 2017, Collections located across the creek Peckerwood Insider's Tour, 10 am
  • Sat, January 20, 2017, Monthly Docent Training, 10 am - 12 pm (Volunteers and Members)
  • Sat, January 20, 2017, TBA, Evening at Peckerwood Garden Lecture, 5 pm
  • Sat, January 27, 2017, Open Day, 10 am - 3 pm
  • Sat, February 3, 2017, Late Winter Interest Peckerwood Insider's Tour, 10 am
Visit and support Peckerwood Garden this winter!
November Open Day
Saturday, November 25th starting at 10:00 am

Join us each 4th Saturday for Open Day and tour Peckerwood Garden with a trained, volunteer docent. Our Oak collection is one most people know, but you can also experience our Magnolia collection, the Mahonias, the Prunus, the Camellias, the Azaleas, and the Agavas. Members have free entry to all Open Days, year round.

Left: Dalea bicolor 'Monterrey Blue' has been flowering away all month by our office door.
Special Early Winter Interest tour: Peckerwood Insiders Tour
Saturday, December 2nd, 10 am

If you want to experience a little longer tour with a special focus and a handout of what is visited, join us for our monthly Peckerwood Insiders Tours. This month, the tour will cover the whole of the garden focusing on the early winter interest that ranges from great leaf colors to amazing blooms, interesting plants with special behaviors. Adam Black will take a limited number of people through the garden for 1.5-2 hours and show you his passion for Peckerwood Garden.
Our November guest lecturer David Creech of Stephen F. Austin University Gardens with Dallas oak collector David Richardson in front of Quercus laeta.
December Open Day
Saturday, December 23rd starting at 10:00 am
We are very excited to be offering the year round, monthly Open Days so our guests can experience the wonder of the changes in Peckerwood Garden through all seasons and weather. Winter is a favorite time for many people with the mix of color changing leaves, dormant plants, amazing blooms, wintertime perennials, and the special interest of the dry gardens and groundcovers that are a highlight.
Special lectures and guest speakers
January 20th, 5pm Evening Lecture 

The December lecture is canceled to allow those traveling with families to be with their family.

We will update you with the January Lecture details soon, watch our homepage here:

We hope to have you with us. Let us know ahead if you are interested in a tour at 3:30 that afternoon.
A cedar glade, one of the sensitive habitats providing home to a number of rare plants in Copenhagen Hills, LA (see the 6 Days collecting article)
Plant of the month: Coontie ( Zamia integrifolia)
In my home state of Florida, the native cycad is a staple landscape plant in parking lot islands, foundation plantings…anywhere. These cycads are planted as individual textural specimens or massed in clumps or rows. Aside from their attractiveness, their popularity also is due to their propensity for being a durable, drought-tolerant and frost-hardy option for a tough spot in sun or shade. Peckerwood founder John Fairey has utilized this species for its various attributes in many areas of the garden, yet I was surprised upon moving here that the plant is still rather unknown in Texas horticulture. It is not difficult to find in the nurseries, but it should be just as popular here as it is in Florida.
Confusingly known by a few scientific names, most commonly Zamia floridana, most researchers consider Z. integrifolia to be the most current name. At least two forms exist, the “southeast” form ranging from southernmost Georgia to the tip of the peninsula which bears broad leaflets and compact form, and tends to be the most common selection in cultivation. Another form localized in the sandhills of the northwest portion of the Florida peninsula has thin leaflets that stand upright in a V arrangement on the fronds. A giant form from northeast Florida called the ‘Palatka Giant’ can be found in collector circles, and a mature clump can reach heights of at 5 feet. On the opposite end of the spectrum, John has a dwarf mutant in his personal collection that was a surprise among numerous seedlings derived from our garden’s plants.  
When I guided members of The Cycad Society around Peckerwood, cycad biologist and Zamia specialist Michael Calonje from Miami’s Montgomery Botanical Center noted how our mature female clumps of Z. integrifolia were scattering their shocking red seeds from their crumbling cones throughout the garden. A common sight in Florida, I never thought about what is pollinating these cones in Texas until Michael asked if we had one or both of their specific beetle pollinators here. Though it is entirely possible that the pollinators hitchhiked from Florida in nursery stock and became established here, nobody has documented them in the state. We have since learned that fertile seeds are produced in other Texas counties from Houston to Austin without human intervention. We will have to pay attention next year to see if we can catch the culprit in the act and officially document its presence in the state. 
Six Days Collecting Rare Oaks in Four States
Peckerwood Garden’s founder John Fairey is most noted for his plant exploration in northeast Mexico, introducing to cultivation many amazing species from locations that would not be safely accessible in our current times. There are, however, plenty of opportunities within the U.S. for collecting uncommon or underutilized plants both for ex-situ conservation and for trialing for adaptability to cultivation in hopes of yielding new and exciting landscape plants. A recent expedition through the neighboring states of Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, with dabblings on the way here in Texas illustrate that there are plenty of surprises out there, and many questions left to be answered regarding our native flora. 
The less common of the two toothache trees, Zanthoxylum americanum, at its only documented occurrence in Copenhagen Hills Preserve, LA
All the Quercus alba on Cavanal Hill and Sugarloaf Mountain, Oklahoma had these beautifully thin, deeply lobed leaves
With oaks being one of our core collections that I want to continue expanding, fall is a busy time prioritizing locations I’d like to visit for acorns of species represented minimally, or not at all, in our collections. I decided to combine two planned collecting trips into one ambitious loop, traveling east to north central Louisiana, north and west through the Ozarks and Ouatchita Mountains of Arkansas to eastern Oklahoma and then returning south back to Hempstead. 
This loop was organized with several goals in mind. The first mission was to assist Matt Lobdell of the Morton Arboretum and Todd Lasseigne of Tulsa Botanic Garden to collect the Oglethorpe Oak ( Quercus oglethorpensis) from its westernmost, highly localized population in Copenhagen Hills Preserve near Columbus, Louisiana. Matt had worked with other collaborators in recent years to collect material from most of the other sporadic occurrences of this species from South Carolina to Mississippi in order to get as much of the regional genetics backed up in cultivation, and this was the last population from which he needed to collect. We figured we would explore northern Louisiana and Arkansas to get Q. arkansana better represented in cultivation. Finally, we hoped to officially document the maple-leaf oak, Q. acerifolia, as an Oklahoma native based on observations from Peckerwood supporter William Fesperman of this tree that is otherwise only known from a few populations in Arkansas.
Foliage of Quercus oglethorpensis at Copenhagen Hills Preserve, LA
Todd Lasseigne (L) and Matt Lobdell at the base of one of the larger Quercus oglethorpensis at Copenhagen Hills, Louisiana
Heading northeast of Hempstead towards Louisiana, I wanted to make a quick stop near Jasper to find a tree that the late Lynn Lowery had once found. Earlier this year, a portion of Lynn’s book collection was generously donated to Peckerwood by his daughter, Patsy Anderson, and son-in-law, Mike Anderson. In one book Lynn had scrawled a precise locality for dwarf chestnut, Castanea pumila. Sure enough, the shrubby roadside tree was still there, directly across from a church, and even better, it had seeds! 
The next morning in Monroe, Louisiana, I met up with Matt and Todd and off we went to some property owned by a timber company near the town of Columbus. Matt had some GPS localities for the Oglethorpe oak from previous surveys, and soon we spotted one in a low moist floodplain. Its trunk was tortuously disfigured with cankers that had been attributed to the same pathogen that causes chestnut blight, the disease that nearly eradicated chestnuts from the eastern US. Nearby we found another small tree, then another, and then a towering individual. Unfortunately, none had acorns. Checking the tract on the opposite side of the road, we found a stand of several very large trees, and two were dropping a few acorns which were eagerly collected. 

On our way to another GPS point, Matt abruptly hit the brakes, backed up to the roadside tree that caught his eye, and asked, “What is that?” It was clearly an oak, but nothing we would expect from this region, with long, thick elliptical leaves. We considered an unusual laurel oak ( Q. laurifolia) but quickly ruled that out. It then dawned on us that the best match was shingle oak ( Q. imbricaria), but that was only recorded from extreme northern Louisiana, the documented southernmost limit of this more northerly species. With pole pruners we coaxed down the only two acorns we could spot high up in the canopy and pressed herbarium specimens to document this new occurrence. 
Above: A range extension for Quercus imbricaria in Copenhagen Hills Preserve, LA

Below: A very unusual mutant Quercus alba with very long, strangely shaped leaves
Quercus sinuata var. sinuata in Copenhagen Hills Preserve, LA
The next day, we were off to The Nature Conservancy’s Copenhagen Hills Preserve, which was close to the property we collected from the previous day. This terrain was quite exciting, preserving a wonderful mix of forested bluffs and ravines along the Ouachita River, punctuated by occasional grassy cedar glades which harbor their own share of rare plants. Before eventually finding Q. oglethorpensis, we noted an extraordinarily diverse assemblage of other oak species, at least fourteen, and many at their southernmost limit here. Most notable for this region were Q. sinuata var. sinuata, Q. rubra and Q. montana. It wasn’t until later that we discovered Q. montana had not been recorded from this region before, but unfortunately, we did not get herbarium specimens to document it.
We eventually found a stand of large Q. oglethorpensis which yielded a few more acorns. Nearly every tree consistently exhibited the symptoms of chestnut blight, but nobody had ever proven that is what was causing the disfiguring trunk cankers. I collected some samples to send back to the forest pathology lab I used to manage at University of Florida as this would be good information for future conservation concerns. 

Our final day in Louisiana took us on a loop drive through the northern part of the state in search of roadside Q. arkansana. A few weeks’ prior, Beatrice Chasse and I were lucky to gain access to the south westernmost isolated occurrence of Q. arkansana near Jasper, Texas and make collections, and it was interesting to see how different these Louisiana plants looked. Matt had noted how he had learned to identify this species by its ping pong paddle-shaped leaves, which is a good analogy. Restricted to well-drained hilltops, we found several populations of this distinctively attractive tree, but few had much in the way of seeds. However, the last tree of the day was quite loaded. 
Above: On the way to Louisiana, I tracked down a Castanea pumila that Lynn Lowery had written the locality of in one of the pages of his books

Below: Sugarloaf Mountain, Oklahoma, from where we started the hike to the top.
Matt Lobdell making an herbarium specimen of  Quercus oglethorpensis for this site in Louisiana
After splitting our Louisiana acorn collections, Matt was on his way to the Monroe airport to return to Chicago, and Todd and I were soon driving through Arkansas on our way to our final mission in Oklahoma. We spotted another patch of roadside Q. arkansana, and unlike those in Louisiana these had abundant acorns, which we happily collected. Continuing, we arrived in Poteau, Oklahoma, in late afternoon, grabbed a quick lunch, and headed up the looming peak of Cavanal Hill. Touted as the world’s tallest hill at 1,99 feet, it is technically just one-foot shy of attaining mountain status.
For the past two years, Houstonian Bill Fesperman had been telling me of some oaks he felt were the maple-leaf oak, Q. acerifolia, in the hills of eastern Oklahoma, namely Cavanal Hill and the nearby Sugarloaf Mountain. His photos were quite convincing. This is significant as this endangered oak is otherwise only recorded from a few ridge-top populations within the state of Arkansas. Todd and I were eager to follow up on Bill’s observations and document this species as an Oklahoma native.  

Following the road up Cavanal Hill, we began seeing oaks with maple-shaped foliage as we approached the top. At the hill’s crest, the trees were quite common. However, looking closer, the foliage toward the upper quarter of these trees morphed into a narrow, asymmetric, curved foliage somewhat resembling Q. falcata. We ruled out the leaf shape being dictated by light levels, as trees in full sun and shade exhibited the same broad, symmetrical maple-shaped leaves below, and thin foliage towards the top. We considered hybridization with Q. falcata, but we could find no individuals of this latter species anywhere. There was little variability among these strange trees, which would be expected among hybrids. What are they? The acorn cupules had long scales that were individually flared, giving the cap a “spiny” appearance. We collected acorns and herbarium specimens, and we both agreed we weren’t sure what we were seeing. 

Also growing with these trees were white oaks, Q. alba, but this population was atypical in that the foliage was deeply cut and thin-lobed in a most beautiful manner. We searched until dark for something that more closely resembled a classic Q. acerifolia, but all we could find were many of the morphing trees. We looked forward to what we would find on Sugarloaf Mountain the next morning. 
Above: Except for the top portion of the tree,s most of the foliage on what we thought were the maple leaf oaks Quercus acerifolia looked like this.

Below: Even the post oaks on Sugarloaf Mountain, OK were tending toward maple leaf shape!
Above: A surprise among the many typical dark purple-fruited beauty berries (Callicarpa americana) was this bright pink form found on the hike down Sugarloaf Mtn, OK

Below: A very unusual Quercus velutina, presumably, on Cavanal Hill, OK
With no roads to the top, our trek up Sugarloaf would not be as easy as Cavanal. Parking at some natural gas wells, we bushwhacked our own trail. As elevation increased, we began seeing white oaks that resembled those we saw on Cavanal, but it wasn’t until we neared the top that we saw our mystery oak with the two different types of foliage. Yet again, there were no textbook examples of the maple-leaf oak we had hoped to find. We collected more herbarium specimens of the mystery oak as well as seeds and made our way back down the mountain with more questions than answers. 

One final surprise awaited us as we were within sight of our truck. As we were pushing our way through a dense thicket of young shortleaf pines and sumac, one particular beautyberry stood out among the many we had seen in the understory. Unlike the typical purple berries, this individual had bubble gum pink fruits. There is already one pink-fruited cultivar in the trade (‘Welch’s Pink’), but the fruit coloration tends to fade by October. The selection we found clearly hadn’t faded. We collected cuttings and look forward to trialing this at Peckerwood and Tulsa Botanic Garden. 

After splitting our day’s collections, Todd and I parted ways, with the many questions that had arisen following our observations of the mysterious Oklahoma oaks keeping my mind awake as I drove into the wee hours of the morning.