by William McMillan
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 11 April 1886:
Spring Intimations at the Park.
Vegetation in the park shows little sign as yet that “gentle spring” has come. Where the turf has been sheltered from the prevailing winds, and especially in hollows where the snow had lodged deeply, the grass is now quite green; but wherever the wintry blasts had full sweep it is still withered and brown. Trees and shrubs are still apparently lifeless. On many of the oaks, beeches and hornbeams, the withered leaves of last season still hang thickly on the branches. This “persistent” character of the foliage on these trees is especially noticeable on the oaks, beeches and hornbeams of European origin, all of which seem to retain firmly every leaf of last year’s growth. The old foliage is so dense that the query seems quite natural, “How can the young shoots find room to unfold?”
Before the foliage expands is a good time to note the conspicuous tints of color which the bare branches of some trees and shrubs exhibit. The snowy white bark of the birches is perhaps the most noticeable in this respect, but the yellow tinge of the white willows and the crimson of the paler dogwoods are almost equally prominent. This may be readily verified by a glance in passing at the willows on each side of Delaware avenue north of the “stone arch” over this road. The red masses of colors may be seen easily at long range at many points on the water margin. It is a curious feature of this shrub that as soon as the foliage expands all the bright red twigs turn green.
In many trees and shrubs the flowers expand before the leaves. Some of these bloom so early that the seed or fruit is well matured before even the earliest shrub is in leaf. According as the season is early or late, the silver maple blooms here between the first week of March and the third week of April. In an early spring its ripe fruit will be shed before the oaks or the walnuts are in full leaf. This year it will be in full blossom this week. As it is abundant in our streets, it can be readily noticed anywhere in the city. It always flowers earlier than any other hardy plant. It beats the snowdrop. Two species of shrubs in the park will also be in full bloom early this week, the mezereum daphne and the cornelian cherry. The former may be seen a little south of the spire-house knoll – the high ground on the lake border east of the boathouse. The flowers are of a beautiful rosy or pink color and very fragrant. They are so abundant that the whole bush is one mass of color. To a botanist it will be interesting to note that this is a plant remarkable for both the beauty and fragrance of the flowers, and yet they are entirely destitute of petals, the parts in which in ordinary flowers color or odor is especially concentrated. In this plant, the petals being absent, the sepals are abnormally enlarged and perform the usual functions of the petals, which in fact they naturally seem to be to the casual observer.
The other shrub now in bloom has bright yellow flowers, small individually, but so numerous that the plant can be readily noticed a long way off. The Cornelian cherry has a misleading name, as it bears no relationship to the cherry, and the fruit, though about as large, is oval in form and is insipid. The first half of the name is better, as it is a dogwood, or “cornel,” and the fruit is also “cornelian” in color.
If the week be mild the pretty tassels of the alder and of the hazel will be swaying in the breeze before its close. Though lacking in bright colors, their delicate form and pendulous habit make them quite attractive in mass. Alder trees are numerous along the margins of the water, and the hazels may be seen near the Delaware avenue footpath entrance.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 18 April 1886:
Progress of Inflorescence among Park Shrubs and Trees.
Among the shrubbery on the lake border the mezereum daphne and the cornelian cherry are still in bloom, but the catkins of the alder and the hazel are now decaying, and these drooping tassels, so pretty for a few days, are already tattered and shriveled. The catkins of the lesser American aspen are now expanding, and their downy surface gives them a close resemblance to hairy caterpillars. This peculiarity is much more prominent on the European aspen, a large tree of which, now in full feather at the corner of Main and Best streets, is worth going a long distance to see.
The balsams and the Lombardy poplars flower about a week later, showing reddish catkins, but at present their large leaf buds, coated with an aromatic resinous gum, are noteworthy on account of their size and fragrance, and the glitter of the gum in the sunlight. This last quality is at this season of the year still more noticeable in the large buds of the horse chestnut, which on a bright day seems studded with jewels. In passing the tree on the sunny side the glutinous varnish on the buds flashes back the light with the brilliancy of a diamond, at the instant the angle of vision intercepts the reflection.
The flower buds of the white elm have burst open, and the mass of projecting stamens envelope the slender twigs with a gauze-like film of a reddish brown tint, which gives a graceful delicacy to the fine spray of this tree. How often do we find flowers like those of this elm, individually insignificant, but wonderfully effective and ornamental in combination. Unfortunately, thrifty young trees flower but sparingly, and the general mass of bloom covering the tops of large trees is usually so high up that it is almost invisible. The flowers of the red and European elms are not so attractive, because, the stamens being much shorter, the adjacent flower clusters do not intermingle.
Two shrubs, both remarkable for strongly scented foliage, will be in bloom all this week – the spice bush and the aromatic sumac. Both have small yellow flowers clustered thickly close to the branches. The spice bush is abundant in the north woods, and the sumac may be seen in the nursery. This sumac is so different in flower, foliage, form and every feature from the common sumac, that a microscopical examination of the flower is almost necessary to convince one that there can be any relationship. Though not so common in our woods as the hairy or stag horn sumac, it is indigenous in this neighborhood and may be found near the edge of the chasm below Suspension Bridge.
There will be little sign of opening leaves even on the earliest plants for at least another week yet. The leaf of the Siberian spirea is partly unfolded, but it makes little or no show yet. The green tinge on the lilac bush is more noticeable, but it all proceeds from the large buds, which are swelling freely but are still tightly closed. We must wait till May before the green of the opening foliage can have much effect on the landscape.
The large flower buds of the black willow are conspicuous, owing to their coat of white soft fur, which protects them from the cold. Hence children call them “pussy” willows. If the weather be mild the yellow flowers will be open by the end of the week.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 25 April 1886:
Anomalies of Park Vegetation this Season.
The Effects of Warm Weather.
Within about a week what a magical transformation has taken place among the trees and shrubs in the park! Ten days ago, not a single newly opened leaf to be seen – today probably half of the bushes and a large proportion of the trees strongly tinged with green, and on some kinds the leaves nearly of full size! Then, only one or two of the most hardy kinds venturing cautiously to expose their flowers to the frosty air – now a dozen species with the blossoms already shed or partly shed, and twice as many more in full bloom, or with the flowers just ready to open.
Uncertain and changeable as our spring weather proverbially is, the extraordinary rise of temperature which has caused all this sudden commotion among the plants is surely worthy of a passing “note.” The first seven days of the month had an average temperature of 33°, with a heavy snow storm to boot on the 6th. The second week had a temperature of 43°, with snow drifts still abundant. The third week had bright sunshine daily, and a record of 61°, which is higher than the monthly mean of last June.
This midsummer weather in the early springtime has caused some notable variations from the usual time and order in which plants bud and blossom. In ordinary seasons the Siberian crab apple, the white willow and the larch among trees, and the currant, gooseberry and lilac among shrubs come into full leaf from two to three weeks earlier than the maple, elm or linden, barberry, syringa or dogwood. This year they are barely one week apart. In ordinary seasons while these earliest plants take the lead in the procession, all the others in the catalogues follow in due succession from day to day, each taking its place in the ranks with respectful deference to the established order of precedence. This year they are starting so closely bunched that many seem to be interchanging places as they get in the file.
This unusual behavior leads to some puzzling anomalies at the present stage of progress. If we look at the willows, larches, lilacs or currants, with their leaves but partly opened, we judge that the season is about as late as the average, but when we glance at the maples, elms and syringas we are convinced that it is at least two weeks earlier than usual. When on the one hand we see the cornelian cherry not yet out of bloom, and turning around see the garden cherry in flower – two plants that should flower nearly a month apart – the confusion is still worse confounded.
When plants are in bloom, the length of time the flowers remain fresh and attractive to the eye varies very much in different species, but in all kinds the period is lengthened or shortened in proportion to the amount of heat and sunshine received. Owing to the unusual warmth and brightness of the weather of the past week, not a few kinds have opened and shed their flowers within the week. Among these are the red maple, the leatherwood and several species of poplar. The birches, hornbeams and hophornbeams are now in full flower, all of them being of the catkin (or kitten-tail) family. The sweet gale and the sweet fern are also in bloom. Their small catkins are hardly worth looking at, these small shrubs being cultivated solely for their finely-formed and scented foliage. A group of each in a cultivated bed may be seen in the woods north of “the pool.”
Black flowers are rare, but the black and the European ash, now in bloom, exhibit a sample of flower as sombre in tint and as destitute of all showy parts as any that can be found. The sallowthorn, now also in bloom, with the male and the female flowers on different plants, and the yellow berries of last year still conspicuous on the female, gives another sample of flowers so small and colorless as to be almost invisible and of interest to botanists only.
The most showy plants at present in flower are the Japan Forsythia, or golden bell, bright yellow, and the Japan quince, as bright a red. The Chinese magnolia will also be in bloom during this week. It has the largest and most showy single flower of any plant in the park. Young trees may be seen on the margin of the open slopes bordering the easterly and southerly bays of the lake. In a cultivated bed in the north meadow woods a fine group of ash berberry may now be seen with its clusters of bright yellow flowers fully open. It is a low shrub with evergreen leaves like those of the English holly, and is our hardiest broad-leaved evergreen, and is almost the only member of a highly ornamental class which can withstand our severe winters. This fine shrub opened its flowers April 23. The shadblow, a small tree covered with loose trusses of white flowers is also very conspicuous. The Norway maple, with yellow flowers, and the ash-leaved maple, with long greenish tassels, are noticeable at many points along the drive and elsewhere. The yellow and the red flowering currants will probably be in full bloom all this week. The former is notable for its fragrance. Several kinds of spirea will also be conspicuous. All are handsome little shrubs with a profusion of small flowers. On two species the flowers are double; one is known as “bridal wreath.” The dwarf double flowering almond with rose-colored flowers is highly ornamental while now in bloom.
If the march of the season be continued at its present gait, the redbud, a small flatheaded tree, will during the week become the most attractive object in the park. It is often called the Judas tree, the English name of the oriental species. Many inquire, Why does so pretty a tree bear the infamy of such a name? It is a corrupt translation of the French name, which means “tree of Judea,” whence probably it was introduced into France and thence into England. The American species should not be thus misnamed. Redbud is the more common and the better name and is aptly descriptive.
In the north meadow woods many humble wild flowers are now abundant, chiefly spring beauty, wind flower, liver-wort and sweet and dogtooth violets. The golden disk of the dandelion weed looks up from the sward everywhere with its usual superabundance. Millions of them will soon be smothering the grass in places, and successive crops will appear more or less profusely till December. No other plant blooms for eight months in the twelve.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 2 May 1886:
Rapid Growth of Improvements.
As the average temperature of last week was about ten degrees colder than that of the previous week, the promises then made by swelling bud and bursting blossom have not been entirely fulfilled. The general tinge of green on tree and shrub is much stronger, but no plant is yet in full leaf, and there are several species on which the buds as yet make no sign.
At the present stage, however, many beautiful traits are exhibited which cannot be studied to such advantage at any other season. Each species has its own way of putting on its foliage, which is quite as distinct as the foliage itself. Each leaf opens after the fashion of its kind, as it is folded, or doubled, or rolled, or plaited, in the bud. The colors also of each species are as varied as their forms and habits, ranging through all shades of green from light yellow to rich bronze, and these tints fade or deepen with each day’s growth. This rich variety of tint in the early spring foliage, though not so striking at a distance, as in the autumn foliage, is in most instances more pleasing on a closer inspection, because each shade is so pure and untarnished.
These features of color and form in the opening leaves are less noticed than they deserve, probably because in most instances they are noticeable for a few days only, vanishing more or less as the leaf becomes full grown. But in some plants this special color of the early foliage is at first a very marked characteristic. The opening leaves of the wild cherry, the white thorns, the white and red oaks and the scarlet and red maples are at first so strongly tinged with red as to be quite prominent at a considerable distance. So also is the light green of the yellow maple, the birch and the aspen. The white birch, which has been poetically named “the lady of the woods,” never shows off her delicate feminine charms to such advantage as now, when her snow white trunk and limbs are half concealed, half revealed, through the vivid green of her half-grown leaves as through a veil. The trembling aspen has also a peculiar charm at this stage, because of the bright green tint of its glossy, quivering leaves, so sensitive to the slightest breath of air.
Under highly artificial culture and propagation nurserymen have produced many new varieties of trees and shrubs with leaves differing very much from the parent type both in color and form. Nearly all of these are most attractive and interesting when their leaves are newly opened. Many plants of this kind with purple foliage are already attracting the eye of the visitor at various points in the park. The most conspicuous are the purple leaved varieties of berberry, filbert, beech, birch, peach and plum. There are several varieties of maple with leaves varying from dull bronze to deep red, the most marked of which, both in color and form of leaf, are the Japanese sorts, most of which unfortunately are too tender for our climate. Specimens of these maples may be seen in two cultivated beds near the southerly bay of the lake. Spireas and syringas with leaves strongly tinged with yellow are also very conspicuous now at many points.
The most prominent flowering plants are those mentioned in last week’s notes, most of which, owing to the cooler weather, are only now coming into full bloom. Of these it is noteworthy that the golden bell, the quince, the magnolia and the spireas are all of Japanese origin. Few American trees or shrubs with showy flowers bloom before the leaves open. The shad bush and the redbud are perhaps the most conspicuous examples. As the garden cherry, plum and peach are also in flower, double flowering kinds of each of these are noticeable in the park. The wild plums near “the pool” will be in full flower all this week. Young plants of the European wild plum, the aloe, are also in flower, most of them being of the double flowering kind. This small tree is more spiny than any of our thorns and is the common blackthorn so well-known in Ireland on account of its general use for staves and shillalahs.
In proportion to its size probably no shrub bears such a load of flowers as the dwarf double-flowering almond which will continue in bloom nearly all this week. Another small shrub, the Ghent azalea, is now coming into bloom with very showy flowers of blended red and yellow. They are in the same group with the Japanese maples, at the southerly end of the “water park.” The Missouri currant, with its sweetly scented yellow florets strung all through its long and slender branches, will also be a conspicuous object all this week. But the most attractive of all will be the redbud, when its dense mass of pink flowers fully expand and completely cover all the branches.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 9 May 1886:
Progress of Foliage and Inflorescence at the Park.
It is now about three weeks since the earliest shrubs opened their leafbuds, but there are several species on which the buds have scarcely begun to swell yet. The leafbuds on the white fringe, mulberry, yellow and honey locusts, catalpa, Kentucky coffee and all the species of ash seem still to be nearly as dormant as in midwinter. But the growth of the general body of foliage during the past week has been very marked, even the natural groves of oak and beech being now partially robed in green.
The leaves of several species are now of full size, and on many kinds the growth within the last few days has been exceedingly rapid. Perhaps this has been more noticeable on the horse-chestnuts than on any others, on account of the large size and the deep green color of their peculiar frond like leaves. Not only are these almost fully grown, but the new shoots on the branches are also apparently of full size, so that within about twenty days from the opening of the first buds the whole season’s growth has apparently been completed. The terminal flower clusters are also so largely developed that their erect, chandelier like pattern are quite ornamental, though no flower is yet open. The American species – the Ohio buckeye – is earlier still, the small greenish flowers being fully out, but they are scarcely so attractive to the eye as the half-grown buds of the common European species.
Early and rapid in growth as the horse-chestnut has been, the lilac started before it and is still ahead, for its large clusters of similar size and form are already turning purple. Though perhaps the most common of all our garden shrubs, the peculiar color, great abundance and rich perfume of its flowers will always keep it a prime favorite. The Persian lilac, which blooms at the same time, or a little earlier, has larger, looser clusters, pink colored at first and fading toward lilac. There are many varieties of each species of all shades from pure white to dark purple. They are abundant in the shrubbery around the lake, and all will probably be in bloom in a few days.
The European bird cherry now attracts attention by its profuse mass of small white flowers in drooping racemes. They are more showy than in either of our two native species, the wild black cherry and the choke-cherry, which flower about a week later. But the European kind, though perfectly hardy and flowering so freely, rarely bears fruit here, or a very light crop, if any.
The sassafras, a native tree of the famous laurel family, has been in full flower for several days. The flowers are small, of a yellowish color in a loose bundle at the tip of each twig, appearing a little before the leaves. Though flowers and leaves be slightly fragrant, this tree is most notable for its aromatic bark, which was at one time supposed to have great medicinal virtue and had in consequence a high commercial value. All of the laurel family are remarkable for the spicy aroma of either bark or leaf or flower. Our own spicebush, the cinnamon, the camphor tree and the evergreen bay tree – the laurel of classic lore – are the most familiar examples.
Two viburnums are nearly in flower – the rough-leaved and the “hobble bush.” The former is a stout shrub of erect form with the white flowers in large terminal corymbs. The other has the outer flowers radiant, as in the guelder rose, and is of such a low, sprawling habit of growth that it is difficult to walk through a natural group without being tripped up occasionally, and hence the name. The white flowers of the dwarf deutzia are now opening. It is a slender shrub of graceful habit, very pretty while in blossom. It may be seen in the narrow border along the base of the rough-stone bank wall at the boat-house. The flowering dogwood is becoming noticeable in the north meadow wood. At first glance the flower seems to be a large saucer-shaped corolla with four white petals. On closer examination the real flowers are seen to be very small and numerously clustered in the bottom of the saucer, the white rim of which is the involucre abnormally enlarged and colored. This curious freak of nature is a fine example of the wide departure which the flowers of some species of plants make from the common type of the genus. In the same copse whortleberry flowers may be seen. Though not showy, they are pretty and interesting on close inspection, as are all the other members of the heath family.
Mention may again be made of the magnolia, azalea, ashberry, quince, double flowering spireas, almond, cherry, peach and aloe, red and yellow flowering currants and the redbud, as they are still flowering freely. Even the golden bell may still be noticed, though it is now more than two weeks since the first flowers opened.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 16 May 1886:
Park Foliage Peculiarities.
The mild temperature and very abundant rainfall of last week have caused a rapid growth of the young shoots and a great expansion of the foliage of all plants that had opened their leaves a week ago, while the buds of the very latest kinds are now beginning to swell and color. This season the difference in time between the leafing of the earliest and the latest has been barely five weeks, which is perhaps a week less than the average. Many of the woody plants that form the rear guard, being natives of a warmer climate, need almost summer weather to start their annual growth. As several of these also drop their leaves at once if a sharp frost come early in the fall, their period is only about five months.
It is somewhat remarkable that the cone-bearing evergreens are, as a class, among the latest to push out their young shoots. As they are never entirely dormant, it would seem that they might be more easily awakened than the deciduous class. Many of these are also especially hardy and will thrive at a higher altitude or latitude than any of the other class, some of them reaching almost to the line of perpetual snow. But all of them begin their annual growth in company with the latest or tenderest of the deciduous trees.
In the park at this date nearly every species of this great pine family – fir, spruce, cedar, cypress, juniper, yew, etc. – is only beginning to show the first signs of returning life. On the contrary, the larch, though a member of this family, being deciduous, is among the very earliest of all trees. But the other deciduous conifers, the southern cypress and the Japan maidenhair, keep company with their immediate relatives. As the larch, however, is already in bloom, attention may be called to the pretty crimson flower cones with which some of the trees are plentifully bestudded.
At this stage a general glance at the foliage of wood and coppice as a whole reveals a wonderful diversity in color as well as in bulk or body of the foliage in different plants. Purple and copper tints are still conspicuous on many thorns, maples and oaks, hoary greys on the larger aspen, white poplar, oleaster and sallow thorn, yellowish greens on white ash, white willow and yellow wood, light greens on basswood, tulip and plane, deep greens on the sycamore, maple, elms and horse-chestnut, and dull, somber greens on all the conifers. Every shade is represented from grey to purple, from yellow to bronze.
The horse-chestnut still carries the densest body of foliage, and as its erect terminal flower clusters are now on the tip of every twig, a large, well shaped tree is a magnificent object. Varieties with red and with double flowers may be seen near the Jewett avenue entrance to the park. The native buckeye, though less showy in flower, is equally handsome in foliage.
Throughout the residence quarters of the city, in garden, backyard, or old orchard, for the past two weeks, the profuse mass of blossoms borne by the fruit trees has been especially conspicuous and highly ornamental. Cherry, plum, pear and apple trees have followed each other in such quick succession that all could be seen in flower at the same time, and each tree-top when fully blown was completely covered. Though grown chiefly for fruit, the ornamental effect for the time being is greater than will be produced from time to time by all the trees or shrubs grown only for show. Considered only as an ornament, the apple blossom deserves a high place because of its rosy color and sweet scent. A double flowering variety may now be seen in the park, but at a distance it is scarcely distinguishable from the common type. For color, fragrance and form of flower our much neglected native crab is superior to either. This fine species is common near the pool and will be fully out in a day or two. It is called “Garland Flowering” from the distinctive manner in which the loose flower-clusters wreathe the branchlets.
The honeysuckle is so associated in our minds with the twining woodbine that we are apt to think of it as a climber only. But though many of the genus have this habit, not a few species are standard shrubs. Of these latter the Tartarian, English fly and the native fly honeysuckles are the most common. The Tartarian is now in full bloom and very abundant in the park. There are several varieties, with flowers white, rosy and pink, respectively. The last is the most showy. The English and the native fly species are also quite common. All these kinds are notable for the manner in which both flowers and berries are formed in pairs as closely united as the Siamese twins.
The weather of the past two weeks has been peculiarly favorable for long duration of the flowering period. Nearly all the plants mentioned in last week’s notes are still well laden. The redbud is especially prominent, the still leafless branchlets being entirely covered. Even on the early Forsythias a good many of the yellow flowers may still be seen.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 23 May 1886:
Beauty in Flower and Foliage Displayed at the Park.
Though the season of spring be now well advanced, there is still a great diversity in the relative amount of foliage borne by different plants. There is no longer the sharp contrast of stark nakedness and full dress side by side so common everywhere in the park for the last week or two, but a large proportion of the trees, and not a few of the shrubs, are still thinly clad. Here and there belated specimens of European ash, hop tree, althea and tamarisk may yet be seen with leaf buds barely open.
Many of the kinds, however, that appear to such great disadvantage at the present stage will far surpass their early rivals when they do finally don their summer garb and show forth their full array. Nearly all the woody plants with leaves of great size or tropical luxuriance of aspect in mid-summer are very late in putting forth their leaves. Our largest simple leaves are those of the pipe-vine-moonseed, plane, catalpa, panlownia, and magnolia, all of which open late. So also the full size of the fronds in our finest pinnate and compound leaves is not developed until after the simpler forms are full grown. For instance, compare to-day and then a month later the relative aspect of the foliage on a walnut, ash, locust, sumac, ailanthus, Kentucky coffee and Hercules’ club. The gradual development of the immense fronds borne by some of these is worth a special study, if only to note the astonishing change which two or three weeks will now make in the general aspect of the trees. Because large leaves require so much room and shut out so much light, all these trees are entirely destitute of spray. The smaller branches are so few, so stiff and coarse, that the whole tree-top had in winter a gaunt, ungainly appearance in strange contrast with the dense mass of graceful drapery which covers it in summer. For instance, the aralia or Hercules’s club might in winter be mistaken for some desert cactus, and yet the same tree is summer might as readily be classed as some tropical palm.
Though a visitor in passing through the park at present must be attracted by the freshness and variety in form and color of the newly opened foliage, yet a keener interest is generally awakened by the newly opened flowers. The native white hawthorn is now conspicuous at every turn, and the black or pear thorn is nearly as common, but the flower is not so forward. The native crabs are fully out and highly ornamental. They are in company with escaped seedlings from the orchards, which are much inferior in beauty and fragrance. The native bladder nut is common near the Delaware road stone arch, and the Japan species in the nursery, where also the yellow flowers of the Siberian pea tree may be seen. Three spireas, the germander leaved, the lance-leaved and the elm-leaved, are quite common and attractive by the appearance of their small white flowers. Bordering the shrubbery bed on the boathouse “terrace,” the yellow flowers of the dwarf Kerria are noticeable. The native chokecherry is flowering as freely as its relative, the European bird cherry, but it is not so conspicuous. The wild black cherry, closely allied to both, is a few days later.
A more distant relative, the Mahalet cherry, is nearly out of bloom. The flower is not showy, but is very fragrant. The honey scented tamarind is now opening, and the slender, wand-like branches, though almost leafless yet, are entirely covered by the multitude of small rosy flowers. The small green flowers of the sycamore maple would hardly be noticeable were it not for their large pendent racemes. The large green flower of the cucumber magnolia is also open, but the flower and leaf are so nearly alike in color that, in spite of its great size and distinctive form, it may not be noticed unless specially looked for. The round green cluster of the snowball is more quickly noticed, and it is daily growing larger and paler until its name is justified. The most conspicuous flower-cluster appearing lately is that of the red-berried elder, a large bush of which near “the outlook” might be easily mistaken for a white lilac. The climbing wisteria on the quarry ledge has a flower truss as large and almost identical in color with the common lilac. The red dogwood and the “sheepberry” viburnum are also in flower, both white in broad cymes.
To those studying botanical characteristics or peculiarities, and not specially hunting for beauty or perfume in the flower, attention may be directed to several species of oak and pine now in bloom, and also to the diminutive buttonballs of the sycamore or plane. The curious may also look for the real flowers in the so-called “flowering” dogwood, or prick the sensitive stamens of the barberry. As examples of ripe seed in May notice may be taken of the loose cotton down on the black willow and trembling aspen, which will soon be floating off with the seed to which it is attached. But the dandelion is still earlier, for it has in like manner been sowing its seed for a week or more. It is the most prolific and persistent of all hardy plants, ripening the seed both earlier and later than others, producing successive crops more quickly and constantly, and sowing the seed far and wide with prodigal liberality and remarkable success.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 30 May 1886:
The Tardiest Trees in the Park Assuming their Foliage.
Even the latest of the evergreen conifers are now pushing out their young “needles.” At this stage all the members of this large family are particularly attractive to the eye on account of the vivid contrast in color between the new leaves and the old. The young shoots are of a much lighter shade of green, the ornamental effect of which is heightened by the distinctive manner in which it stands out on the tips of the twigs, in bold relief against the body of the tree. In the pines, spruces and firs this characteristic is just now especially prominent.
The needle-shaped leaves of this family of trees are so small and numerous that usually little notice is taken of the special leaf characteristics of each species. These become so merged in the general body of foliage that we note rather the composite effect of the whole mass. This is enhanced by the distinctive habit of growth which all the trees of this class assume, at least while comparatively young. Their compact, spiry form, with straight, central shaft, all the branches symmetrically arranged, and often tapering regularly on all sides from base to peak, is in pleasing contrast to the more irregular habit and wide-spreading tops of the deciduous trees. The evergreen character of the foliage gives them a further claim to our favorable regard at the opposite season of the year, when the leaves of the other class lie withered or rotting on the ground.
As our native hawthorns are very abundant in the park, and as their flowers are now fully out, they are this week especially conspicuous. The flat top and wide-spreading head of some of the larger bushes give them a very handsome aspect. The English hawthorn, though a little later, is also well advanced and is perhaps more generally noticed, as the varieties with red and with double flowers are so conspicuous. It does not make so thrifty nor so handsome a bush as our native kind, but the flowers are more sweetly scented, and the double flowering sorts keep longer in bloom. High culture and careful propagation have produced very numerous varieties of this thorn, differing greatly in habit, in leaf, in fruit, as well as in flower and time of flowering. White, black, yellow and orange-colored haws are not uncommon. Doubtless equal care would produce a like varied progeny from our native thorns, but so little regard is paid to them that they are seldom or never planted or propagated for ornaments.
Along the east border of the meadow the “flowering” ash is quite abundant. As the flowers of all the other species of ash are destitute of petals they are so little noticed that in common parlance this is the only flowering ash, as in like manner the “flowering” dogwood is named because it also is so much more showy while in bloom than any of its brethren. The soft feathery clusters of white threads projecting from the ends of the branches do give to this ash a very distinctive character while in bloom.
The Chinese weigelia is now coming into flower and will be a prominent object in the shrubberies on the easterly margin of the lake for the next week or more. It is closely allied to the shrub honeysuckles and is even more showy than they are because its flowers are so much larger, and their high color is so prominent. There are many varieties, differing chiefly in the color of the flowers, pure white, blush, rose, pink and purple.
The lilacs are still blooming freely, with the earliest flowers just beginning to fade. A much later species known as the Hungarian lilac is not yet fully out. Its aspect is quite distinct both in the form of flower and cluster, while the color is a very dark purple. It is a stout, compact shrub with fine foliage, many of the leaves being more or less motted and splashed with yellow.
The snow-ball is nearly full blown, but this plant, generally throughout the city and especially in the park, is so infested with insects on the foliage, and every leaf is so rolled up and wrinkled, that all the plants seem to be sick unto death. The snow-ball has for many years been more or less subject to this scourge, but this season the vermin seem more destructive than ever. Many other shrubs, especially the euonymus and thorn, are suffering from the same plague. As we have had no frost since April 9, and the mean temperature of the third week of the month was nearly equal to the average for June, perhaps this early brood of small flies was hatched by this untimely heat. The temperature of May has not been higher than the average, yet the season is unusually forward. On Decoration day last year the lilacs were not in bloom, and very few hardy flowers could be found to lay on the soldiers’ graves. This difference of two weeks or more is apparently all due to the sudden start given to all vegetation by the extraordinary spell of warm weather about the middle of April. Whatever be the cause, the brood of this class of insects, so harmful to vegetation, is much larger and their ravages far more destructive this year than usual.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 6 June 1886:
This Week’s Display of Blossoms by the Park Shrubbery.
The most conspicuous flowers now in the park shrubbery are chiefly those mentioned in last week’s notes. The showy weigela is yet in its prime, and the long slender wands of the tamarisk are still thickly fringed with rosy florets from base to tip. The several varieties of lilac are fading fast, except the species called Hungarian lilac, with compact clusters of dark purple flowers, which is hardly at its best yet. The English hawthorns and some tardy varieties of the native thorns are still quite fresh. The snowball, wherever it has been able to withstand the ravages of the “thrip” insects, is at its largest and whitest stage.
Nearly all the members of the viburnum family are suffering more or less, like the snowball, from this “plague of flies,” but some of them so much as to seriously disfigure them. The several species called maple-leaved, plum-leaved, pear-leaved, and the sweet viburnum or sheepberry are yet almost in full bloom, and most of them are handsome shrubs with showy flower clusters. The tooth-leaved and the downy viburnums are not fully open yet, and, being of similar aspect to the other kinds, the succession of viburnum flowers will be continued for a week or more.
Two other members of this family now in bloom deserve special mention – the high cranberry bush and the Japan snowball. The latter has a quite distinctive leaf and habit, is entirely free from the insect scourge, while the cluster closely resembles the common kind. Young plants of it may be seen in the nursery. The cranberry bush is the American counterpart of the European species called “Guelder rose,” which is the parent of the snowball. In both the outer flowers on the margin of the cluster are sterile and much larger and more showy than the fertile flowers, while the “bloom” also lasts much longer. The snowball is an artificially propagated variety in which all the flowers are like the “radiant” margin of the cluster in the original type. By special culture and selection of the most promising variations, a variety with snowball clusters could probably soon be produced from our high cranberry bush, and also from our “hobble-bush” viburnum, as well as from the corresponding species in Europe and Japan. We have also a hardy native hydrangea with “radiant” flowers which by like treatment might be made to rival the more familiar, but tender Japanese and Chinese species.
Two species of cornel are now in full flower – the red osier and the alternate leaved or blue fruited cornel. The flower clusters of both are so prominent and ornamental that they cannot be ignored by the exclusive title of “flowering” dogwood to another of this family. In a few days the flowers of the panicled dogwood will also be out. It is the principal shrub along the easterly border of the “meadow park.”
The Carolina allspice began flowering ten days ago, and thrifty plants will keep up a perpetual succession of fresh flowers all summer. This shrub has many peculiar traits. It exhales a spicy fragrance from every pore. Flower, leaf, bark and the wood of both stem and root are all so strongly aromatic that the name of “the sweet scented shrub,” so often given it, is quite appropriate. The flowers are peculiar in odor, color and structure – the scent seems a queer compound of pineapple and strawberry – the color a strange mixture of red, purple and maroon – the bracts, sepals and petals indefinite in number, and so lost or merged in each other that an expert botanist cannot well say “which is which.” A group of these shrubs may be seen near the walk on the east margin of the lake.
The box thorn, more commonly called matrimony vine, has also begun to flower, and, as the shoots lengthen, will keep on flowering at the joint of each successive node till frost come. This perpetual succession of flowers and corresponding offspring of berries, to be seen at the same time with the flower in all stages of growth from the germ to the ripe fruit, have probably suggested the family relationship implied by the more familiar name. It is abundant everywhere in the shrubbery groups.
Now is the flowering period of many trees and shrubs the flowers of which are seldom observed, except by students of botany, or those curious to see for the first and last time any unknown flower, on account solely of its novelty to them. The flowers are so small and unattractive to the eye that few ever see them at all. The mulberry, prickly ash, euonymous, shrubby bittersweet, buckthorn, Virginia creeper and grape vine may be mentioned under this head. The purple fringe may also be classed with these, though, as the small greenish yellow flowers are very numerous and prominently disposed on the extremities of the branches, the general aspect of the bush is at this time highly ornamental.
The white fringe is also in flower now. It has neither resemblance nor relationship to the purple fringe, in which the “fringe” is the aftergrowth of abortive flowers, while the white fringe is named from the long, loosely hanging white petals of the flowers. When in bloom the peculiar form and arrangement of the flowers make a veritable “fringe” of much beauty, and give the plant an aspect quite unlike any other shrub. The leaf is also large, and of a rich texture and deep green color if the plant is growing in congenial soil. There are several groups of it along the south border of the meadow park, where the plants appear to much disadvantage in a thin, clayey soil.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 13 June 1886:
Syringas Following Viburnums and Weigelas at the Park.
As the lilacs, viburnums and weigelas successively fade, the syringas now take their place and will in turn continue as the most conspicuous flowers in the ordinary shrubbery groups of the park. There are several species of this genus, and many varieties of each. They are natives of Japan, Oregon and the southern spurs of our Alleghany range. The Japan species has a compact habit of growth, and its flowers are the first to open, arranged in loose clusters of a light cream color and pleasant fragrance. The other species have a ranker, looser growth, with larger and whiter flowers, having little or no scent, and scattered more or less singly on the branchlets. The varieties include some with double and semi-double flowers, dwarf and golden leaved forms, and various hybrids combining more or less of the features of each parent. All are hardy, handsome shrubs of easy culture in any ordinary soil or situation.
It is unfortunate that a class of shrubs so well known and so highly esteemed as this has not a better common name. The term “syringa” is Latin, and as it is the botanical name of the lilac its use for both is often confusing. The other name, “mock orange,” is also misleading as it has not the slightest relationship or resemblance to the orange, which is an evergreen tree entirely different in every respect. If a fancied resemblance in the scent of the flowers of each has led to the adoption of this name it might be with equal reason called “cucumber bush,” on account of a similarity to that fruit in the taste of the leaves.
From the beginning to the end of the season there is always some species of the spirea family in bloom. Just now a native kind with the odd name of “nine-bark” is nearly in full flower. It is the largest and rankest growing kind in the long list of spireas. It has a leaf like that of the snow-ball, and may also be readily distinguished by the thin shreds of loose bark constantly scaling off the larger stems. Its half-round clusters of white flowers are not so showy as the flowers of some of the other kinds, but the bladdery seed pods ripen to a reddish color which is highly ornamental, while the ripening seed clusters of nearly all the other kinds are a positive blemish. There is a variety with bright golden leaves, which hold the color well for the first month or more. There are several prominent groups of this sort near the drive, the leaves of which at a distance might readily be mistaken for a mass of yellow flowers. Another shrub – the “bladder senna” – with bright yellow blossoms of the pea-flower type, and still more showy inflated seed pods, has begun to flower and will continue all summer. The clover aspect of the pinnate leaflets and their light green tint give this plant a distinctive character in any group.
The yellow locust is now in full bloom. Its white flowers, also of the pea-flower type, are highly scented, and the pendent clusters, when profusely produced, have a very ornamental effect. As this tree has also beautiful pinnate foliage of a peculiar light green tint, the general aspect of a thrifty tree is exceedingly graceful, especially while in bloom. But unfortunately this species is so subject to the attacks of a grub called a “borer” that every tree is more or less disfigured with dead or dying branches. As the wood of this tree ranks among the hardest, heaviest and least perishable of all woods, it is strange that a soft, fleshy “worm” can pass so easily through it in all directions.
June is pre-eminently the month of roses, and this queen of flowers has already begun her reign. The rose has probably been more extensively cultivated from time immemorial than any other ornamental plant. All the leading types have been so stimulated by high culture and the artificial crossing of different strains that florists have been able to catalogue several thousand varieties. New sorts of surpassing excellence for the notice are continually supplanting the older kinds, both among the tender and the hardy classes. Only hardy kinds are grown in the park, and but few of these. Near the Delaware avenue entrance are two beds of the type called “hybrid perpetual.” With skilful culture in very rich soil they will bloom sparingly all summer, but the chief show of flowers is in June. In size, color and perfume many of this sort take a high rank almost equal to that of the pampered pets of the greenhouse florists. In the north meadow wood a small group of a quite different type may be seen – the Persian yellow. In this vicinity are some fine groups of the native swamp rose which is not in flower yet. Near the quarry are some plants now in bloom of the sweet briar – the eglantine of the poets.
Two native species of the climbing honeysuckle are in flower – the “small” and the “trumpet” honeysuckles. The latter is a handsome plant in leaf, flower and fruit. When without support it becomes a shrub, but the habit is irregular and straggling. This shrub form may be seen in and near the large bed below the “outlook.”
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 20 June 1886:
Fragrance of the Silvery Oleasters at the Park.
Probably the most noticeable plant that has come into flower in the park during the past week is the oleaster or wild olive. The flowers are axillary, and of a tubular form with pale yellow lips and throat. As they are comparatively small, and the exterior of the tube is of the same silvery tint as the foliage, they are quite inconspicuous. Yet few plants in the park attract so much attention during the flowering period. This popular interest is caused chiefly by the extraordinary degree in which the surrounding atmosphere is filled with the pleasant odor exhaling from the flowers. The perfume is dispersed more freely and abundantly than from most other flowers noted for fragrance. On the lee side it may be detected for a long way off, while in the immediate neighborhood it is, in certain conditions of air, oppressively heavy.
By the sense of sight this tree, or large shrub rather, can also be identified at a very long range, owing to the extremely silver grey color of the foliage. The white poplar and the white beam tree have the under side of the leaves more hoary, but their upper sides being of a dark green, the general aspect is not nearly so grey as in the oleaster, which is silvery on both sides. Two other members of this family – the sallowthorn and the sheperdia – are likewise remarkable for the silvery scurf on their leaves. The peculiar color of the foliage makes them all prominent objects in any group of plants.
As the olive tree has leaves quite similar in color and form to the oleaster, the latter has been named the wild olive, but their is no relationship between them. The natural inference from the use of this name is that the oleaster is the wild form of the cultivated olive, a tree too tender for any of our southern states. The olive family, however, includes several hardy, well-known trees and shrubs which in general features are much more dissimilar to the type. The ash, lilac, privet, white fringe and golden bell belong to it, though at first sight few would ever suspect the kinship.
The common English names of plants are often misleading, as in the case of the wild olive, and the Latin or Greek names have to be used to insure identification. With some plants, however, the foreign name in common speech supplants the native when the latter is in every respect preferable. A choice native shrub, but of somewhat difficult culture here, the few plants of which in the park have now shed their flowers, will illustrate this. The rhododendron is universally known by its harsh sounding Greek name, while the English one – rosebay – though far superior in both sound and sense, is seldom used. Both the color of the flower and the form and texture of the evergreen leaf are indicated by the union in its name of two such famous plants.
Another native evergreen shrub now in bloom near the Delaware avenue entrance has three or four English names and yet it is better known by its Latin name kalmia. The English names are confusing, or meaningless. Laurel or mountain laurel may also mean the rosebay, of the cherry laurel, or the bay tree, while calico-bush and spoonwood sound very odd and far-fetched. The kalmia has a most beautiful flower, exceedingly interesting on close inspection for the minute delicacy and exquisite symmetry of its design. Both swelling bud and open flower will alike reward the sharpest scrutiny with naked eye or pocket lens.
As the shrubby “cinquefoil” has no English names we must speak of it in French. It is a low, bushy plant of somewhat peculiar aspect both in leaf and flower. The latter might readily be mistaken for a buttercup in color, size and form. They are produced successively for a month or two, the tip of each growing twig terminating in a single flower. This plant is the only shrubby species in a large genus, all the others being low herbs, akin to the strawberry. But though the only woody plant of its kind, its hardy constitution is most remarkable, if judged by its geographic range. In the northern hemisphere it encircles the globe, equally at home in Ireland and Siberia, in the bog meadows of our Atlantic states, on the arid slopes of the Rocky mountains, and amid the drizzling fogs of the north Pacific coast.
The terminal flower trusses of the common privet are nearly expanded. Though not fully out, attention may now be directed to their sweet scent, as they quickly fade in sunshiny weather. The compact habit of this bush and its smooth dark green leaf give it an attractive aspect, which is much heightened during the short flowering period when profusely covered by erect flower clusters of purest white.
Ledebour’s honeysuckle, a strong-stemmed shrub with tubular flowers of yellow and orange colors, is now noticeable in many shrubbery groups. But its chief ornament is in the bracts of the flower, which turn red after the flowers drop, with the valuable quality of lasting for many weeks. Here is an instance in which the bract is more highly colored than sepal or petal. It is a native of Manitoba and thence westerly.
The tulip tree has been in flower for a week or more, but visitors wishing to examine its large curiously tinted flower cup may yet see it to good advantage in a young tree on the eastern promontory of the lake. Though lacking the brilliant tints of its namesake, this tulip flower will be noticed on close inspection to have more body of color and delicacy of shading than is generally supposed. The tulip tree leaf, in form, color and gloss is quite distinct and handsome. In congenial soil and situation this tree often attains a gigantic size, and in its native forest growth is normally the highest tree in the woods.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 27 June 1886:
Effects of the Cool and Wet Weather at the Park.
The Golden-Leaved Elders.
The cool, cloudy and rainy weather of the past week has been exceedingly favorable to all vegetation in the park. The grass seems as fresh as in May, and the lawns are now thickly besprinkled with the sweet-smelling white clover, except where newly shaven by the mowing machines. The foliage on tree and shrub looks fresh and luxuriant, and the flowering period of the plants that recently came into bloom has been much prolonged. Many tardy weigelas still bloom freely, while the later syringas are now only at their prime. The privet bushes are profusely covered with flower clusters, and the air in their vicinity is laden with a honey-like smell. Even the oleasters, prodigal though they be, have not yet exhausted their fragrance.
Quite a number of new shrubs have also come into bloom during the week. The Siberian spirea may be mentioned first, as its large panicles of white flowers are very conspicuous. An immense compound cluster terminates each flowering branch like a feathery plume, which is held proudly up far beyond the body of the shrub. In general aspect this shrub differs much from all the others of the same genus, but on the other hand it closely resembles the English “meadow sweet,” an herb species of spirea quite common in our gardens. The leaves being pinnate, with about twenty leaflets to each frond, the great abundance of rank, luxuriant foliage distinguishes it from the other shrubby spireas quite as much as the great size of the flower petisa. Though comparatively late in its time of flowering, this shrub in early spring is always the first of all woody plants to sprout and spread out its leaves.
Several other spireas, all much alike in flower, leaf and habit, are now beginning to open their flower spikes on the tips of the branches. The names of some of these are the willow-leaved or common meadow sweet, in several varieties, with white, or flesh or rose-colored clusters, respectively, hardback or steeplebush, light red, Billard’s or Douglas’s, both deep red. Though classed as different species, they seem all alike to the common observer. All have a stiff, erect habit, with numerous rod-like branches, terminating in a more or less compact spike of flowers. In thrifty plants, as long as the branches and branchlets continue growing, the flowers will appear in succession, and thus the flowering period be prolonged for two or three months.
The crenate-leaved deutzia, a Japanese shrub without any English name, is now in bloom, and will probably attract more attention than the spireas. Its upright clusters of nodding, bell-shaped flowers are exceedingly pretty. The are several varieties, as in all plants which have been long under cultivation. In producing such variations the Chinese and Japanese have been equally as successful as Europeans, and in some directions, such as the variegation of the leaf and the dwarfing of the plant, they are ahead. The varieties of deutzia in the park are those with white and rose-colored flowers, with single and double flowering kinds of each.
Like the spireas, the honeysuckles are so numerous that all through the season some one of the several species is in bloom. Now is the flowering period of a native shrubby kind called very indefinitely “bush honeysuckle.” Though one of the family it is only a cousin, as it were, the relationship of the Chinese weigela being closer than to the honeysuckles proper. The flowers are pale yellow, arranged in threes instead of in pairs, as in the Tartarian and fly honeysuckles.
Perhaps the most conspicuous foliage to be seen in the park at this time is that of the golden-leaved elder. Most of the newer varieties of plants with yellowish green leaves have the tint strongest when the leaf first opens. But in this shrub the order is reversed, the yellow tinge becoming stronger week by week till the time of flowering. If partly in the shade the color is not so strong as if fully exposed, but on the other hand a hot sun in dry weather blisters many of the leaves. This season few leaves have yet been touched, and now, when the broad cymes of cream-white flowers mingle with the golden leaves, this shrub makes really a fine show and attracts attention a long way off.
There are several other varieties now in bloom in which the chief interest centers in the peculiarities of the leaf. One has the leaves edged with yellow, another with white, a third is “cut-leaved,” and a fourth has leaves torn to shreds apparently. All of these varieties spring from the European black-berried elder, which is a much larger and stouter species than our native black-fruited kind. The former is a tree, rather than a shrub, with the wood of the trunk and boughs very hard and tough. The latter can hardly be called a woody plant; the thick shoots and suckers are so easily broken, and have so much soft pith at the core. Though often ten feet high, it has always an unshapely, overgrown aspect, the parent plant nearly lost in a thicket of suckers and offshoots. All the elders in the park with the normal type of leaf are of the native species.
The silk vine, a twining climber of strong growth, with deep green, glossy foliage, may be seen festooning the wooden platform-rest of the walk margin directly across the water from the boat-house. The flower, which are now out, have a very peculiar shape and coloring. The five narrow petals spread out from the core of the flower like wheel spokes from the hub. The color is green on the under side, and dark purple on the upper, which is also furnished with fine hair, soft as velvet. This vine is akin to the miltweeds, and, like them, has white juice. It is a native of southern Europe, but perfectly hardy here in a much colder climate.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 4 July 1886:
Peculiar Characteristics of the Sumachs and the Ailanthus.
Several species of native sumach now in bloom are quite abundant in the park. The hairy species, called “staghorn sumach,” is the most common, as wherever it obtains a footing it multiplies all too freely by suckers sprouting from its spreading roots. It has large pinnate leaves, and the stout young shoots are densely covered with a soft velvet fur, exactly resembling that on the young antlers of a deer. They also bend inward with a regular curve like the prongs of a deer’s horn. The “smooth sumach” has the same general characteristics of foliage and habit of growth, but the bark is quite smooth. A “cut-leaved” variety of this species, near the inlet bridge, has foliage of distinctive beauty both in form and color.
The sap of all the sumachs, both native and foreign, has some remarkable quality. The “dwarf sumach” produces the resinous gum or varnish named “copal.” From the leaves of the hairy and the smooth sumach brilliant dyes and indelible inks are made, and both bark and leaves are used in tanning where high color or fine finish is desirable. The purple fringe, which is a sumach, though very unlike the above, has the same qualities. A Japanese sumach yields the famous varnish used in “lacquering” the woodenware of that country. And, finally, the sap of two other native species is a virulent poison as harmful to touch as to taste.
The flowers of all the species are so small and greenish in color that they are seldom noticed. The terminal clusters of the hairy and smooth sumachs are so large that they are quite conspicuous, but as they have no brilliant tint or other showy quality a passing glance is probably all the attention they will receive. If looked at so closely as to sniff the scent they will be found to have a slight but unpleasant odor. The flowers of the poisonous kinds are so small and greenish that a close inspection is necessary to see them at all and few persons care to run the risk involved in making their acquaintance.
The most dangerous species, called “poison sumach,” is not in the park, though for mere ornamental purposes it is one of the handsomest of shrubs. There is, however, a superabundance of the other kind, which is commonly known as “poison ivy.” It is so plentiful in the north meadow wood that this shady copse is damaged by it. if let alone it will rarely do any harm. Its injurious action is very different with different individuals, the usual effect being a violent and painful inflammation of the skin and flesh. Some persons can handle it, or even chew the leaves with impunity, while others are hurt by merely breathing the air from it as they pass by. The wise will refrain from testing its effect on themselves by any rash experiments of this kind. In habit and in foliage this climber closely resembles the Virginia creeper, but anyone can readily distinguish one from the other by noting that the poison ivy has its leaves parted in threes, and the creeper in fives.
The “ailanthus” or Chinese sumach, a large tree of rapid growth, flowers at the same time. In flower, leaf and branch it is very like our common sumachs. Though closely allied to them, it is now classed in a genus by itself, with our shrubby trefoil or hop tree as its next of kin on the opposite side. All the three genera have small greenish flowers of unpleasant odor, a quality possessed by the ailanthus in a more offensive degree than either of the others. The park possesses only a single specimen, at the north edge of the quarry, which this season has no flowers, but it is not uncommon in our streets and door yards, where during the flowering period its presence is apt to be more familiar than desirable.
The clammy azalea, sometimes called the white swamp honeysuckle, may be seen in bloom in a cultivated bed in the north-wood. The flowers are in loose, spreading clusters with long and slender, funnel-like tubes, glutinous to the touch. This azalea flower, though pure white, is not so showy as the other kinds, but it possesses more delicacy of form and has a fine fragrance, a quality scarcely noticeable in the other native kinds and entirely lacking in the Ghent and greenhouse varieties.
In the vicinity of the European lindens a sweet scent pervades the air, and a low, steady buzz is heard from the humming of the bees extracting honey from the flowers. The native linden, usually called basswood, is a few days later in flowering and the flowers have little or no fragrance. The pendant clusters are much alike in both kinds and have a peculiar leaf-like appendage or wing of a lighter green than the leaves, which by its singular aspect attracts the attention quicker than the small yellowish-white flowers. The linden is sometimes spoken of as the “lime,” a name liable to mislead those who may not know that the true lime is a tropical tree of an entirely different character. The European linden is a large tree of regular outline and massive form, but in our climate large trees of this species are rare. In our city streets it has usually a stunted aspect, is much preyed upon by caterpillars and often dies before reaching mature age. Our basswood, though not a good street tree, owing to similar defects, grows to a great size in a deep soil and moist section. It is superior to the European in every respect, except the scent of the flowers.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 11 July 1886:
Ill Effects at the Park of the Dry Weather.
Late Spireas and Catalpas.
The effects of two weeks without rain and of the very warm weather of last week are becoming unpleasantly visible in the lawns and the shrubberies of the park. The clover and the grass are losing the fresh and sappy aspect they have hitherto shown, and are beginning to wither wherever the soil is thin or stiff. The effect on the foliage of the shrubs is not so noticeable, but the duration of the flowers has been considerably shortened. In such warm and bright days the flowers develop and mature their several parts, fulfill the functions of their being and vanish from their scene much quicker than when the weather is cool and cloudy. Until a few days ago many weigelia and syringa flowers were still to be seen, but the last has now departed, and even the later elders are now nearly all out of bloom.
The later flowering spireas are now the most abundant bloomers in the ordinary shrubbery groups. The meadow sweet and others of that class, noticed as beginning to flower two weeks ago, are still throwing out many fresh flower spikes on the tips of the twigs. Another still later species with flowers in flat corymbs instead of tall panicles is now flowering profusely with many later clusters not fully open yet. This is a dwarf variety of Fortune’s spirea, a compact, low bush with white flowers. It differs much from the parent species in size, habit, color of flower and general aspect. A fine group of the latter may be seen in a cultivated bed on the east margin of the north meadow wood. The straight, rod-like stems terminate in numerous widely-branching corymbs of pink flowers. A glance at this group will show that flowers arranged in this manner are often very beautiful, though not so prominently displayed as those in erect spikes or tall panicles.
Within a rod or two of this group of Fortune’s spireas is a low bed of weak undershrubs just now entirely covered with little erect clusters of very small white flowers. This is named the “redroot” because of the large size and dark red color of its roots. It is also known as New Jersey tea, because in revolutionary times its leaves are said to have been used as a substitute for the genuine article. The bloom as a whole is exceedingly pretty, yet the individual flowers are so minute that a keen eye can hardly distinguish the several parts. If examined with a lens the petals will be seen to have curiously vaulted hoods, and the eye will be further attracted by the pure white of every part or division of the flower. It is an unusual thing to find stamens, corolla, calyx and even the foot-stalk of the flower all exactly of the same tint.
We are so accustomed to find all parts of the flower easily distinguished, and so fond of pretty colors and fine fragrance that we are too apt to overlook or even to despise such flowers as have no claim to these qualities. We thus miss many interesting traits that are revealed to the close observer by many flowers destitute of sweet perfumes or brilliant tints. Every species, however insignificant or unattractive the flower may appear at first sight, will repay a careful scrutiny, as each has a peculiarity easily seen and worth noting by those who may have neither time nor taste for the many minute distinctions of descriptive botany.
In rambling among the shrubs we may frequently notice in some out of the way nook a very pretty, modest little climber intertwining its slender stems for support among the lower branches of some bush. It has two distinct forms of leaf, one heart-shaped, the other with two detached ears or lobes at the base of the leaf. The flowers are a bluish purple with a golden center in nodding clusters, produced in succession till fall, when the scarlet berries of the earlier clusters contrast very effectively with the bright blue of the later flowers. This is the woody nightshade or bittersweet, a quite harmless plant though belonging to a poisonous family. At least it may to bruised or handled without any risk, while the berries are so nauseous to both taste and smell that they are not likely to be eaten.
The largest and most showy flower that has lately opened is that of the catalpa or Indian bean. This is a native tree of very distinctive aspect owing to the great size and light-green color of the leaf. The flowers are bell-shaped, white, tinged slightly with violet, and the throat mottled with yellow and purple. A thrifty tree when in full bloom is very conspicuous and highly ornamental, but this latitude is so near its northern limit of hardiness that most of the older trees have a stunted aspect and ungainly form, with a meager display of blossoms at the flowering period. A Chinese variety named Koempfer’s catalpa may be seen near the horse sheds. In growth it has the same defects as the native kind, with smaller leaf and a dull yellowish flower not half the size of the other. In the nursery are several plants of another Chinese species – Bunge’s catalpa. It is a compact, bushy shrub, with a dense body of rich foliage, but liable to be “killed back” more or less almost every winter.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 18 July 1886:
Blossoms of Chestnuts and the Vine Bower Clematis.
Of all our large forest trees the sweet chestnut is the latest in its time of flowering. It was in bloom during most of last week, and the full blossoms being of short duration many of them have already been shed. The flowers are of two kinds – male and female – totally unlike each other, the male flowers only being conspicuous. These are produced on the ends of the branches, protruding in large, loose bundles of flowing tassels from the center of an outspread tuft of leaves. On a mature tree in a thrifty condition these greenish-white, cord-like catkins are nearly a foot in length. Their great abundance and the profuse mass of bloom they bear seems out of all proportion to the number of female flowers or the possible crop of fruit. Each cluster being set off, as it were, by a circlet of long, taper-pointed, bright green leaves, the combination of flower and foliage is very effective, and, appearing so late in the season, is sure to attract attention.
This hardy forest tree is much neglected, in spite of its tempting fruit. Though a native of this region and ranging widely from Canada to the gulf, it is rarely seen in our city streets, and seldom cultivated for either fruit or ornament. It is now scarce in the suburban woodlands of this vicinity, because the dry uplands most suitable for it are the first to be stripped of their wood by the farmer. It is probably better known, however, than other forest trees that are far more abundant, because when the fruit is ripe in October so many young people contrive to get acquainted with it. There are no large trees in the park, but it may be seen in the grove adjacent to the picnic grounds, and in Forest Lawn cemetery.
In the park, however, a few young trees of the European or Spanish chestnut may be seen still partly in flower on the south border of the meadow. The flowers are in all particulars so nearly identical with those of the American chestnut that botanists class both as one species. Yet in the leaf, in the size and taste of the fruit, in habit and hardiness, they differ widely, while in geographical origin they were probably separated by nearly half the circumference of the globe. The Spanish chestnut is too tender to thrive well or bear fruit in this latitude, or even in northern Europe. Though much cultivated in southern Europe, it is not indigenous there and is supposed to have been introduced from western Asia, where it is found in the forests, as its American congener is with us.
In nearly all other genera of trees and shrubs – and of herbs too – common to both continents, the American species are specifically distinct from the European or Asiatic. As the native regions of these two chestnuts are so far apart, and the conditions of their “environment” have been so different, how can we account for this curious “evolution” of the same species by each? Or can plants that differ so much in several other characteristics be properly classed as the same merely because the flowers are alike? There is such infinite variety in plants and such apparently excessive exuberance in some directions, that the most comprehensive classifications are continually failing at some point. Man is constantly baffled in every attempt to confine nature within a network of fine-spun rules, but when he finds the mesh torn he patches up the rent with this other cobweb – “the exceptions prove the rule!”
In the park and on many house verandas in our resident streets, the “vine-bower” clematis is now in bloom, and its large, bluish-purple flowers are very ornamental. There are many varieties differing slightly in the size and color of the flowers. In some the flower disk is nearly six inches across, and all shades may be found among the newer kinds from bluish-white to purple-black. In many the depth of color is intense and the blending of tints peculiar, in various combinations of blue, violet, maroon and purple. Though all the varieties bloom so profusely the annual growth of the shoots is slender and very moderate in length for a climber. For this reason it is admirably adapted to festoon any light trellis, door-porch or veranda, railing or window lattice.
This plant has grown rapidly in public favor within the last few years, within which time in fact some of the finest varieties have been produced by skilful propagators. They are of two leading types, those that bloom in May and June from the ripened wood of the previous year, with the flowers divided into 6-8 parts, and those that flower on the new summer shoots with only four sepals to each blossom. The latter are the most popular, as under favorable conditions they will keep up a perpetual succession of bloom from July to October.
Persons unacquainted with the refined distinctions of botanists will be incredulous when told that this showy flower has no petals. When it happens, as in this plant, that one of the two floral envelopes – the corolla or the calyx – is absent, it is assumed that the missing member is the inner one. Thus the floral disk of this clematis is said to be composed of four sepals, which in order to fill up the void have been abnormally enlarged and highly colored. But the common observer will think it unnatural to imagine such a violent transformation of the parts, and will continue to regard them as petals, the organs in which the color and character of most flowers are concentrated. Whichever view we may take, we must recognize the beauty of the flower in all of these new varieties of clematis and admit that they are valuable additions to our stock of ornamental climbers.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 25 July 1886:
Some Shrubs Which Are Yet to be Seen in Bloom at the Park.
A Peculiarity of Hydrangeas.
Though the flowering season of woody plants is now drawing towards its close, there is still a considerable amount and variety of bloom to be seen among the shrubberies. Several species of spirea are flowering freely, and on the elders the later maturing shoots are still producing fresh flowers. Several noteworthy shrubs have also come into bloom for the first time during the past week, and others are promising by swelling buds to keep up the succession for several weeks yet. The plants that will be in full flower all of this week are the native clematis, called virgin’s bower, the buttonbush, the shrubby horse chestnut and two species of native hydrangea. All are interesting plants in habit and foliage and especially valuable for ornamental purposes because of the lateness of their period of flowering.
The flowers of the virgin’s bower are white and of small size compared to the kinds mentioned last week. But they are proportionately numerous, as each flower stalk bears a loosely panicled cluster of many florets, instead of one large flower, as in the other species. If not quite so showy as the latter when in bloom, this species is far more ornamental when in fruit. The seeds are furnished with white feathery tails, each flower-cluster changing as the seeds mature into a large hairy tuft, exceedingly beautiful and lasting for months. This plant is common on house verandas throughout our city and abundant in our suburbs wherever the ground is naturally moist, if it can find a rough, brier-covered wall, a hedge, or a thicket of shrubbery to clamber over. Its shoots are slender but of rapid growth, making from twelve to twenty feet of new wood each season, most of which “dies back” before the next spring. By the aid of its twisting leaf stalks it clasps firmly to its support, and, mounting rapidly to the top, overspreads the upper surface of the bushes, whence it displays to good advantage its flower clusters, or its feathery seed-plumes.
The buttonbush is almost aquatic in its habits, being found naturally on the alluvial borders of bottoms of sluggish streams, often growing directly out of the water. In such situations the bushes have little or no distinctive individuality, all the roots and branches of each clump or group being so interwoven as to form virtually one plant. But under cultivation in any deep, mellow soil it becomes a handsome shrub, densely furnished with fine glossy foliage. It may be seen in the nursery or at various points along the margin of the lake or by the edge of the creek near the bridge on Humboldt parkway. Now while it is in bloom its aspect is peculiar, as the branches terminate in several globular buttons or balls, each of which at some distance seems to be one flower. But on closer examination it is seen to be composed of two or three hundred tubular florets projecting with equal regularity from every point of the central ball, like ripe seed on the head of a dandelion.
The shrubby horse chestnut is a low, many-branched, wide-spreading shrub, with no resemblance to the tree of the same genus except in the leaf. The white flowers are individually small, but very numerous, while the spike or thyrse on which they are borne is a foot or more in length and fringed with the projecting stamens like the bristles on a bottle brush. A large group of these shrubs may be seen near the walk on the high, narrow ridge south of the summer house.
Both species of the hydrangeas now in flower may be seen near the boathouse terrace and along the walk by the east-end of the lake. In their general features they have a close resemblance, but they may be readily distinguished now while in bloom, as in one species all the flower cymes have enlarged or neutral flowers on the outer margin, while the other rarely shows any of these larger sterile flowers. The foliage also has this difference, that the leaves of the latter are green on both sides, while in the former they are whitish beneath. The showy marginal flowers are furnished with a calyx only, having neither petals, stamens nor pistils. But they remain comparatively fresh and attractive to the eye for a month or so after the fertile flowers are shed.
This tendency in the hydrangeas to produce neutral flowers has been increased by careful cultivation until in some Chinese varieties all the flowers are of this type. The extraordinary difference thus induced in the life and shape of the flower truss may be noted by comparing our wild hydrangeas with the cultivated kinds from China and Japan. Most of the latter, unfortunately, are too tender for ordinary outdoor cultivation, and hence have to be grown in boxes or tubs during the summer months, and stowed away in cellars all winter.
If our propagators would apply the same prolonged patience and skill to the improvement of our hardy native hydrangeas which the Chinese gardeners long ago bestowed on the several species of this genus indigenous to China and Japan, they would doubtless in due time obtain like results. By treating the guelder rose species of viburnum in a similar manner, Europeans produced the snowball, and there is a like chance for Americans to produce the same snowball form of flower cluster from our hobble bush and high cranberry bush, both of which viburnums have naturally radiant marginal flowers identical in character with these hydrangeas, or with the guelder rose. Our southern oak-leaved hydrangea is the most promising species to begin with, as the flower truss is large, panicled in form, and the neutral flowers larger and more numerous than in the two other species. The efforts of our propagators have been so concentrated on the production of double flowers that the natural tendency of some plants to produce neutral flowers has been neglected. The beauty of the altered flowers of the latter kind is no inferior to those of the former, while the flowering period is much more prolonged. Compared with the normal type of bloom the actual change wrought is equally marvelous.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 1 August 1886:
Lingering Blossoms upon Woody Plants at the Park.
Climbers Now in Bloom.
In August the display of wild flowers in our open fields and fence rows is perhaps more conspicuous than in any of the three preceding months, because of the large size and great abundance of sunflowers, golden rods, asters and such like herbs now coming into bloom. But among woody plants the chief show of bloom was nearly two months ago, the display has been gradually decreasing for a month, and only a few stragglers from the grand procession are now found loitering in the rear. Many of the plants, however, that had their chief period of flowering in July, or even earlier, still exhibit many stray flowers on the younger shoots, and if the roots have plenty of moisture these shrubs will keep growing slowly and flowering sparingly for a month or more yet.
As conspicuous examples of this habit mention may again be made of the allspice, bladder senna, monthly rose strawberry, matrimony vine, shrubby cinquefoil, woody nightshade, bush honeysuckle and the later spireas, on all of which fresh flowers can readily be found till September. The value of the vine-bower clematis is chiefly in the lateness of its period of flowering and the perpetual succession of new flowers until October if the plants be well watered.
The same habit is shown in the various kinds of Japanese honeysuckle, a fine climbing plant which has but recently opened its earliest flowers. It will continue growing till frost come, and where hard frost doesn’t come as in our southern states, it will flower until Christmas, and the foliage will keep fresh and green all winter. In warm, sheltered situations it will bloom here till October, and the leaves will keep green till December. The flowers are very fragrant, but the odor is not freely exhaled except in the evening. As the flowers are red on the outside of the tubes and white on the inside with the lips flaring backwards, they are very showy. The white changes to yellow as the flower ripens, and, as the several flowers in a cluster open one after another for a week or more, each flower seems to have a different tint. There is a variety in the park on which the flowers are pure white on both sides of the corolla and the tint changes but slightly until the flower withers. Another variety has the leaves beautifully veined and stained with red, white and yellow.
The trumpet flower is another climber, which opened its first flowers a few days ago. Though a native plant with flowers much larger and more lightly colored than the Chinese honeysuckle, it is not so common on our verandas. As it climbs by rootlets from the stem, it adheres better to brick or stone than to wood, and of course it can get no support from a wire or other small rod, around which a twining climber takes its firmest grip. The flower is scarlet outside, orange within, and nearly two inches broad at the lip of the trumpet. As they are produced in large clusters on the ends of the free shoots, they make an imposing display even at a high elevation. As the plant is not very abundant throughout the city, those unacquainted with it may find it on the rocky ledges at the quarry.
In this connection mention may be made of several climbing annuals and biennials which are common on our houses, are now in bloom and will continue flowering for a month or two. The most common are the morning glory, bindweed, Madeira vine, Cypress vine, fumitory or mountain fringe, coboea, pole beans, sweet peas and various gourds. Some spring up annually self-sown, while all are of easy culture, twining rapidly up any temporary cord or slender string. Though all have attractive flowers late in the season, they are probably grown more to afford summer shades, a temporary screen or ornamental festoon.
The most famous of all creepers or climbers, the ivy green, also flowers in August. But our climate is so unsuitable for it that thrifty plants of large size or good age are rarely seen in our northern states. Our summer heat and drouth and our winter cold and sunshine are all harmful to it. In deep, pourous soil on the north side of a wall or building, where neither strong suns nor harsh winds can reach it, it will grow fairly well, but still with only a hint of the rich luxuriance and abundance of smooth, glossy foliage it exhibits in its native clime. There the ivy seems to surpass all other plants in the depth of the green in its leaf and in the enduring permanence of the verdure at all seasons of the year. In favorable situations the same freshness of aspect and depth of color may be seen in plants supposed to be many centuries old.
In the shaded and sheltered situations in which it grows best here, no flowers are produced. The flowering branches appear only where the plant has free scope to shoot up into the open air. They are entirely different in character from the creeping portion of the plant. They have no rootlets, are erect and shrubby, and the leaves are different in form, all being ovate, while on the body of the plant they are three or five lobed. Even the flowers are green with but a slight tinge of yellow, the all pervading green overpowering this intrusion of another color. Our native plants having flowers most like the ivy are the aralia, sarsaparilla, spikenard and ginseng. It has no relationship to several other climbers which have been falsely named after it, like the poison ivy and the Virginia creeper, often called American ivy. In habit of growth and form of leaf, however, it is closely imitated by a cousin of our Virginia creeper, lately introduced as the Japan ivy, but none of these are ever green like the true ivy.
The “green old age” which the ivy attained and maintains is forcibly expressed in Dickens’s famous lyric:
Whole ages have fled, and their works decayed,
And nations scattered been.
But the stout old ivy shall never fade,
From its hale and hearty green.
Creeping where no life is seen,
A rare old plant is the ivy green.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 8 August 1886:
Injustice Done the Late Blooming Shrubs by the Dry Weather.
With plants that flower in the spring the proportion of bloom produced is often in inverse ratio to the growth of wood or stem. Conditions of unusual fertility may stimulate an extra rank growth of young shoots and foliage and check the ordinary tendency to flower. Conversely, conditions that stunt the normal growth of wood and leaves often force a superabundance of flowers, as if the plant were making a special effort to propagate its kind before expiring. In such circumstances a plant is said to flower itself to death. But with plants that flower toward the end of the season’s growth, the richer the nourishment, however stimulating, the larger and more abundant the blossoms, while a starving plant invariably produces few or stunted flowers.
Thus our woody plants that flower so late as August often display their blossoms to great disadvantage, because in our climate at this season of the year the soil is liable to be parched by drouth, and the flowers cannot obtain sufficient moisture for their natural development. The size, abundance and duration of the flowers are all so diminished in a dry season, compared with their aspect in a wet one, that the plants can hardly be recognized as the same. Thus, unless the plants be artificially watered, a dry time like the present prevents a fair development of the flowers of such shrubs as have their flowering period at this time. In looking at the shrubby St. John’s wort, the coralberry, the aralia and the panicled hydrangea, which are now in bloom, we must make some allowance for the unfavorable conditions under which they appear.
The St. John’s wort is a small undershrub with numerous slender branches, forming a low bush very leafy and compact. The leaves are small, smooth, firm in texture and yellowish green. The plant is evergreen where the winters are mild, and here it is among the first to open and the last to shed its leaves. There are a dozen or more herbaceous species of this genus, most of which are quite abundant in fields and waysides. All have yellow flowers, and those who know the herbs will readily recognize their shrubby brother by the family likeness. It may be seen by the west margin of the drive as you pass the boat-house, or near the boat landing in the south bay.
The coralberry seems to be ashamed of its small, almost colorless, insignificant flowers, and makes a special effort to hide them out of sight. Though strung abundantly all along the branches in the axils of the leaves, they skulk under the overlapping foliage so effectually that the twigs have to be lifted or twisted upside down to obtain even a glimpse of the flowers, and when seen they are hardly worth looking at. The beauty of this shrub is entirely in its habit of growth and its fruit. The branches are exceedingly numerous, and as they are too slender to stand erect they arch over and turn downward at the tips. Its general aspect has a delicate, gracefulness unequaled by any other shrub. The fruit is of a clear, coral color when fully ripe, but ripening so late that here it is not at its prime till November. It is sometimes called Indian currant, though it has no kinship and but very slight resemblance to the currants. The low shrubs with yellowish variegated foliage on the margin of the groups on the boat-house terrace are a variety of this plant.
The aralia is a very “shy bloomer,” and rightly so, as after flowering it often “dies back” to the ground, a similar stout shoot starting up from the roots the following year. The flowers appear on a large panicle on the end of the stem, greenish white and almost hidden from view by the immense terminal tuft of foliage in which it seems imbedded. This plant has a singular habit of growth; often having only one stalk or stem, peculiarly thick and coarse, and covered all over with stout prickles. In this form it is worthy of its common name of Hercules’s club, or even the vulgar one of devil’s walking stick. Occasionally a few equally stout shoots branch out near the top but hardly enough to justify the other name – Angelica tree.
The only ornament about this plant is in its leaves, each of which seems in itself to be a fair sized branch. They are doubly or trebly compound, and the several divisions so widely separated on stout midribs, that a leaf four or five feet long and half as broad is not uncommon. Only those who are well versed in the morphology of leaves can believe that such a many-branched, wide-spreading frond is only one leaf. As the leaves are all clustered in one whorl at the top of the shoots, a specimen fifteen to twenty feet high comes nearer to our ideal of a tropical palm than any other northern plant.
The Japanese panicled hydrangea is a hardy species producing flower clusters as large as those of the tender varieties from China or Japan which have to be grown in pots or tubs, that they may be taken indoors when frost comes. The flowers are furnished with sepals only, all being of the enlarged, neutral type naturally or originally confined to the marginal flowers of the cluster. If the plant be well watered while the flowers are forming, the conical truss may become twice the size of a lilac or horse chestnut cluster, and too heavy for the stem to support it. But if it lack sufficient moisture, as in a dry time like the present, both flower and cluster will be so much smaller that they can hardly be recognized as the same species. Under such adverse conditions the flowers on the body of the cluster often revert to their normal, fertile form, and are thus entirely different in character. The sterile flowers will keep comparatively fresh and showy for many weeks, so that this hydrangea will probably remain, as it now is, the most conspicuous flowering plant in the park for the rest of the season. The color, which is greenish at first, becomes pure white when the sepals are full grown, and changes slowly to a rosy red as they ripen and finally dry up instead of falling off.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 15 August 1886:
“The Last Rose of Summer.”
Peculiarities of the Shrubby Althea or So-Called Rose of Sharon.
The prolonged drouth has seriously marred the most beautiful features of the park. The grass and the foliage have lost the deep verdure which is their chief attraction. On the broad meadow and in all the lesser glades the turf is so browned and scorched that it would be irony to speak of it as grass or greensward now. Trees and shrubs may have faded but slightly, yet the fresh and sappy aspect is gone which they exhibited in the earlier months of the season. On such shrubs as should still bloom freely, if the roots had plenty of moisture, the flowers are comparatively few and feeble. Even the latest flowering shrubs which should now be in the full flush of bloom make a rather sorry spectacle, except a few groups of panicled hydrangea, which are grown like bedding plants in cultivated soil and frequently watered.
The only rivals to this hydrangea are the white alder and the shrubby althea or rose mallow, which have but recently opened their earliest flowers. The white alder or sweet pepperbush grows naturally along the banks of streams or in boggy places, where summer drouth can least affect it. The leaf has some resemblance to that of the black or true alder, and the plant grows in the same or similar localities, but the two have no botanical affinity. It is much smaller than the alder, has a stiff, erect habit of growth and little or no beauty except when in bloom. The flowers are white and highly fragrant, appearing clustered in conspicuous spikes on the tips of the branches, in a manner similar to the spike flowering spireas. A few plants of it, none of them in full flower yet, may be seen in a group with some wild roses in the north woods.
The althea or rose mallow is perhaps more generally known as the “rose of Sharon.” It is a native of Syria, and the flower in size and shape is not unlike a rose, but most probably it is not the plant mentioned in the bible in the Song of Solomon. The most learned authorities now claim, on grounds philological as well as botanical and geographical, that Solomon’s plant was not the rose mallow, nor a rose of any kind, but more likely a crocus! This interpretation is more consistent with its conjunction with the “lily of the valley” in the same sentence, and also with other local allusions in the context. Solomon sang of the early spring time, noting with joy the departure of winter, the appearance of the first flowers, the singing of birds and the cooing of doves. A flower that appears only towards the end of summer is out of place in such company.
But this fine shrub is none the less ornamental, even if shorn of the historical and sacred associations which its name suggests. It is easy of culture in any light soil, has an erect and compact habit of growth, and if trained with a single trunk makes a neat, diminutive tree. For many centuries it has been under careful cultivation by devout gardeners, and this long domestication has produced many variations from the original type. Flowers white, variegated, red, purple, etc., are common, and also double flowers of each of these sorts. There is also a variety with variegated leaves, but its growth is relatively weak. The best plants of this shrub in the park are near the Delaware avenue footpath entrance.
The name of shrubby althea is given it because its flowers resemble those of the herbaceous althea – the well-known hollyhock, which is also a mallow. Both plants are natives of Syria, a country with a climate very different from ours and having few indigenous plants that can withstand the cold of this latitude. The fig, pomegranate, olive and oriental vine do not thrive will even in our southern states. Yet from the same region come the weeping willow, the Judas tree, the paradise crab, this althea, and such hardy herbs as the hollyhock, the lily-of-the-valley and the star of Bethlehem. We thus have examples of the remarkable difference in the natural adaptability for acclimatization of different plants. Some will thrive well if carried to the opposite side of the globe, while others will pine and die if taken outside their native habitat.
In favorable seasons the rose of Sharon will keep on growing and will produce fresh flowers in succession until the first sharp frost arrives, which will nip prematurely both flower and leaf, however late it may be in coming. Of all our hardy ligneous plants it is in this latitude the latest in its period of flowering, except the witch hazel. It is the rear-guard of the long procession, led by the silver maple, which has been steadily filing past us for the space of four months or more. Several other shrubs may also flower sparingly till frost come, but their period began earlier than the althea’s.
As the witch hazel does not flower until October and November, after the foliage has faded and fallen, it has properly no place in the ranks among shrubs that flower and fruit the present year. Its seedgerm does not develop till next spring, nor the fruit mature until autumn. It may therefore more plausibly be called the earliest instead of the latest of hardy flowering shrubs. If classed thus its singular habit of flowering so soon after the leaves decay or drop is not so anomalous. Where the winters are a little milder it flowers as late as December and January, and the Japan allspice, Chinese jessamine and other deciduous shrubs come into bloom in company with it or close behind it. Quite a number of evergreen shrubs, not hardy here, flower in mid-winter in milder regions, even where much frost and snow are not uncommon. Even here not a few of our earliest spring flowers occasionally blossom in November in extra mild weather, showing a tendency which has become a fixed habit in the witch hazel.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 22 August 1886:
The Fruits at the Park.
Attractions, Aside from Flowers, which the Vegetation Presents.
When visiting the park from week to week during the chief flowering period of the trees and shrubs, your observation of the plants is chiefly directed to those that have come most recently into bloom. We examine the flowers with special interest, but probably give only a passing glance to other beautiful features that are worthy of notice, such as pleasing peculiarities of foliage, fruit, habit of growth or general aspect of the whole plant. As the season has now advanced so far that no new flowers are appearing to distract our attention, we may at this time take a look at some of the most noticeable and ornamental fruits in the park.
Usually we do not expect the fruits of trees and shrubs to be well colored or especially attractive to the eye until ripe, nor expect them to ripen till autumn. But there is much variation in the time when fruits ripen, and also in the time when they are most highly colored and ornamental. While we have been noting the flowers many fruits have come and gone, and others have passed the stage at which they are most beautiful. The white and the red maples and the several species of elm, willow and poplar ripen their seeds in June or July and sow them in time for the plants to take root and make a fair growth before the end of the season. The fruit of the maples and elm is usually quite prominent before the leaves expand, and a little later, as it commingles with the young foliage, it has a distinctive beauty of aspect and contrast of color that is often quite pleasing to notice.
As examples of fruits that are brightest and best looking long before the seed is ripe, we may cite the leafy clusters of the shrubby trefoil, ironwood, hornbeam and ailanthus, the newly inflated pods of the bladder senna, bladder nut and nine-bark spirea, the pendent tassles of the hard maples and the ashes, the beans of the redbud and locust and the long cylindrical pods of the catalpa; so also the hairy, crimson cones of the stag-horn and other sumachs, and the loose, silky filaments of the purple fringe are most beautiful soon after the flowers are shed, and fade before the seed is half matured.
But our most ornamental fruits are the small, bright colored berries which many shrubs and a few trees produce. These also vary much in their time of ripening as well as in the length of time their bright tints remain untarnished. The currants, shadbush, chokecherry and several dogwoods ripen their berries in early summer, but their beauty is usually of short duration, because they are soon picked off by the birds. The glossy berries of the Tartarian honeysuckles, in two varieties – orange and crimson – assume their brightest hue about midsummer, and as birds are not so fond of them they remain a conspicuous ornament of these bushes till autumn. The scarlet berries of the high cranberry mature later, but are already well colored and polished and will last till November.
Other berries now becoming prominent are the Cornelian cherry, a bright red; the sallowthorn, orange; the snowberry, pure white; the red osier, pale lilac; the buckthorn, wild cherry, privet and several viburnums, all black when fully ripe. All of these, notwithstanding their juicy pulp, will last well through the autumn, and some of the kinds will endure till midwinter. The dry berry-like fruits of the euonymous, bittersweet, coralberry and winterberry do not color nor ripen till October, they are little harmed by frost, the winterberry especially being as plump and red as ever in early spring. The scarlet berries of the rowan-tree or mountain ash are equally hardy, for they often remain on, firm and bright, through the snows of midwinter. As they are already well colored, in large pendant clusters, they make the rowan in autumn the most ornamental of trees.
The snowberry is named from its color and not from its time of ripening. Though as its fruit is not ripe till October, the earliest berries are already full-grown and white as snow. Yet on the points of the twigs the small rosy flowers are still quite numerous. We can thus observe at the same time side by side on the same branch the flower, the ripe fruit and green berries of all sizes. The boxthorn or matrimony vine also presents to our view a numerous offspring of all sizes from the full grown berry to the opening flowerbud, and will continue the exhibition for a month or more yet. All plants that bloom in succession for months show more or less of the same features.
Yet how apt everyone is to express surprise who sees for the first time mingling together on the same branches the newly-opened flowers and the ripe fruit of the orange tree! This is a different thing – it is the ripe fruit hanging on to the plant till the flowers of the following year appear. Neither of these apparent peculiarities is really uncommon, as many plants exhibit either one or the other of these features, but the fruit being inconspicuous it is not noticed. Our witch hazel, however, combines both, for every autumn it displays flowers and ripe nuts side by side, each the product of the same calendar year, as in the snowberry and boxthorn, and yet the germs of each are as strictly a year apart in time as in the orange tree.
Among the shrubs we often find, curiously enough, that the plants with the least showy flowers have the most ornamental fruits and vice versa. For instance the flowers of the sallowthorn, euonymous, bittersweet, coralberry, snowberry and winterberry are hardly worth looking at, but their fruits are the chief ornament of our shrubberies in autumn. On the other hand, who ever looks at or thinks of the fruits of our finest and most popular flowering shrubs – the golden bells, lilacs, spireas, deutzias, weigelas, syringas and hydrangeas? If noticed at all they are seen to be a blemish rather than an ornament. None of our so-called double flowers, which on that account are so highly prized above single flowers of the same species, ever produce any fruit or propagate their kind. They are botanical monstrosities, their abnormal features being produced and maintained solely by artificial causes and conditions.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 29 August 1886:
Returning Verdure in the Park.
What May Now be Seen in that Picturesque Spot by Nature Lovers.
The recent heavy rains have restored to the park the fresh verdure of grass and foliage which is the chief charm of a pastoral landscape, and essential to the full enjoyment of any pleasure grounds. It is remarkable how quickly a few good showers revived the grass which, owing to the long drought from the end of June to the middle of August, seemed to have become so withered and dead. The change in the general aspect of the trees and shrubs is also noticeable but less conspicuous, because their roots being deeper the drought affected them less, and only a small proportion of the late rainfall has sunk deep enough to give fresh energy to the plants.
The different effect of the drought on different species has been quite noticeable. The roots of some spread widely near the surface, while others spread outward much less, but penetrate far deeper if the subsoil be favorable. The trees which appeared to suffer most from the dry weather were the lindens, elms, beeches and tulips, all of which have many surface roots and also naturally prefer a soil where permanent moisture is within reach of the deeper roots. But, on the other hand the shellbark hickory, which is the most deep-rooted of all our trees, showed more browned and withered leaves than any other species. In ordinary seasons this tree is the first to ripen its young shoots and shed its foliage. Possibly the recent drought has simply hastened the new growth to maturity, and there has been little or no material damage or unnatural check to the ordinary progress of growth, or processes in the circulation of the saps, as in the other trees named.
Another incident of the drought has been the similar premature fading and shedding of the leaves of such plants as have their foliage tinged with artificially induced shades of white or yellow. Nearly all such plants show a less vigorous constitution than the parent type, and are consequently more easily affected by any unfavorable conditions, by any unusual cold or wet as well as by extra heat or dryness. This defect is especially conspicuous in the part at present in the sickly-looking conditions of the golden-leaved elder, spirea and syringa, and the variegated-leaved cornelian cherry, athoea and weigela. Leaves similarly tinged with red or purple are hardier and seem to withstand heat and drought almost as well as leaves of the natural shade of green.
Perhaps all these peculiar eccentricities in the color of the foliage, which are seen in so many varieties of trees and shrubs, are due to some unhealthy condition of the sap, or defect in the channels of circulation. But in spite of the more or less weakly aspect which plants of this class exhibit, they are popular favorites, and consequently are much cultivated. The paler and feebler they are the more they are coddled and pampered. At present these is a fashionable demand for oddities of form or color in the foliage of plants, and the extent to which they have been lately induced to respond to and meet this demand is truly remarkable.
The base of all these notable changes is the natural tendency to variation shown by both plants and animals under the artificial conditions of domestication. In the vegetable kingdom this trait is exhibited by cultivated trees and shrubs in new peculiarities of the leaf, perhaps more frequently than in the flower, or in the habit of growth. In our nurserymen’s catalogues bushy species have a list of a dozen or more varieties of this class and nearly every species that is in general cultivation has produced one or more varieties of the leaf either in color or in shape. The so-called “cut-leaved”
varieties are very numerous, and many of them have more distinctive beauty than the variations in color however curiously variegated, whether veined, stained, striped, mottled or blotched.
As examples of the ornamental effect of “cut-leaved” foliage attention may be directed to samples of ash, maple alder, eider, beech, birch, linden and sumach with leaves all more or less curiously divided, fringed or frayed. The fern-leaved beech is notable both for the beauty of its foliage and the symmetry of its habit of growth. The cut-leaved sumach is equally remarkable both for the fine color of the leaf and the delicacy of the fringe along the margin. The simple leaved ash and the oak leaved rowan are examples of variation in the opposite direction, a single leaf taking the place of the numerous pinnate leaflets.
The most common purple-leaved trees and shrubs are the purple beech, berberry, birch, filbert, peach, plum, elm, Norway maple and sycamore maple. In many of the Japanese maples the reddish tint is exceedingly strong and bright, and the leaves are also deeply cut, but the plants are of slow growth, and not quite hardy here. Usually the tint of all these plants becomes greener as the season advances, but the purple plum and some of the maples show very little change. In ornamental plantations specimens of these variations in the form or color of the leaf, or in the habit of growth as in “weeping” trees, may be desirable as samples, but in most cases the ordinary and natural shape and color are more permanently pleasing and satisfactory than those artificial traits, however popular the present fashion for odd shapes or fancy colors may be.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 5 September 1886:
Though the panicled hydrangeas began blooming in the park a month ago the development of the flowers is so slow and the flowers so lasting that they are only now at their best and most showy stage. Where they have been planted in close groups and specially cultivated many of the trusses are of immense size, and each collection is very effective in mass as far off as it is visible. Most of the flowers are still pure white, but the earliest are partly finished with red, which will slowly spread over and tincture the whole. The best groups are near the boathouse, on an open slope of the south bay, and beside the “inlet bridge.”
The althea is still blooming most abundantly, some of the bushes being now more heavily laden with the large rosettelike double flowers than heretofore. The individual flowers of this shrub are so large, and so uniformly and thickly distributed over the whole bush that the ornamental effect is very striking. The plant itself has such numerous upright branches that its floral decoration is set off to the best advantage. The only other shrub still in full bloom is the half-prostrate, sprawling matrimony vine. Contrasted with the neat form and erect bearing of the althea its ragged aspect and groveling instincts seem very undignified.
That the summer in its forward march has nearly passed us is seen by the general aspect of the foliage of many trees and shrubs, and some are giving hints of the near approach of autumn. No bright fall tint is yet noticeable except on some stray leaf here and there, but the rich, deep green of midsummer has departed from the leaves of many species. Lindens, shellbark hickories and buckeye horsechestnuts are beginning to fade rather prematurely perhaps, owing to the recent drought, but the plane, the catalpa, and especially the ailanthus hold their light green almost as fresh as at first. Where root moisture has been fairly preserved the general color of the main body of foliage is still in the natural healthy green common to each species.
It is marvelous what rich effects in color are produced in our forests and plantations by the infinite variety of shades of only one primary color which the summer foliage exhibits. On close inspection, there is seen to be a distinct difference in the exact shade common or natural to each species. In each, too, the color varies more or less with the progress of the season, the hues of spring being relatively light and clear, and deepening steadily through the summer months. The manner in which these mingle and combine is an important element of beauty in any landscape.
Aside from color the foliage of trees and shrubs is always interesting and often beautiful if we look only to the relative size, shape and texture of the leaves. Here again we find infinite diversity, and each species has distinctive qualities exclusively its own. A few of the more prominent or peculiar of these diverse foliage traits may here be noted.
In size alone there is every gradation from the slender threads of the tamarisk or the needle scales of the juniper to the broad pennons of the large leaved magnolia or the compound fronds of the azalea. But large leaved trees, though suggestive of tropical luxuriance, are heavy and lumpish in aspect compared to the light and graceful spray of small leaved trees or shrubs. Large pinnate leaves, however, are specially attractive, the leaflets having the effect of simple leaves, and the long waving fronds being very effective. Note for example the general express of the foliage in the locust, ash, sumach, ailanthus or Kentucky coffee tree.
We are accustomed to think of all the leaves of each species as having but one shape. The leaves of sassafras and the mulberry have several shapes – ovate, or with one, two, or three lobes, the lobe variable in size, and appearing on either edge of the leaf. The woody nightshade has two leaf forms, oval and halberd shaped. The leaf of the Japanese creeper is simple, or has three lobes, or is divided into three leaflets according to the age of the shoot of the plant. The barberry leaf is often a mere spine with branching prickles as if it were the skeleton of the full leaf. The leaves of rank-growing saplings or root-suckers are not only much larger in size than is normal, but also frequently of different shape, such as filled up sinuses in oaks, and surrate edges on the great-toothed aspen.
When a healthy and vigorous young tree is cut down and a new shoot sprouts up in its place, the leaves, in the effort to assimilate all the sap which the roots supplied to the larger plant, often expand to such a size that they are hardly recognizable. This change of aspect may be seen daily in our streets in the pollards of poplars, willow and other trees. The most striking example is furnished by the panlownia, which being a little tender for our climate is liable to be “winter killed.” When it starts up afresh in spring the leaves, which are naturally large, assume such gigantic dimensions that the sapling is more like an overgrown sunflower than a woody plant.
By the opposite treatment of systematic starting the Japanese have succeeded in permanently dwarfing many trees and shrubs, which they cultivate with great care in the altered form or habit. The variegated foliage plants which are also so common and popular with this people and which we so largely import, are probably but another result of this system of stunting the growth. When subjected to unusual conditions plants occasionally break out as it were from the restraint in one of those freaks of nature which gardeners call a “sport.” These are of comparatively rare occurrence and do not reproduce their kind from seed. But the ardent cultivator perpetuates the novel trait by grafting the sporting shoot on a scion of the normal character. Thus all the varieties of this class now so numerous and popular have to be artificially propagated, and their continued existence depends on much special care and culture.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 12 September 1886:
Different Ways in which Nature Treats Foliage.
Those varieties of trees and shrubs of the class recently mentioned in these notes that differ widely from the ordinary character of the species, whether in the shape or the color of the leaves or in the habit of growth, are chiefly interesting while looked upon as rarities or novelties. If extensively cultivated so as to become familiar to the eye they lose their attractiveness, because their peculiar traits have usually some abnormal or unnatural features which are offensive to good taste. For surely that must be a vitiated taste which prefers leaves of some cut or tattered pattern to the regular form of the parent type, or those that, during the growing season, are stained or blotched with some intrusive foreign color, to leaves of a natural, healthy green. There is endless diversity in the foliage of woody plants, as well as in the leaves of herbs, so that in the natural form or color peculiar to each species there is variety enough to satisfy the most curious, without gratifying a hankering after unnatural deformities which have sprung from some chance sport or odd freak of nature.
The beauty of the many pinnate and compound forms of leaves has already been noted. Palmately divided leaves are also attractive, as may be noted in the horse chestnut, buckeye, Virginia creeper, shrubby trefoil and bladder nut. Leaves deeply lobed or finely scalloped also attract attention, as in the plane and sweet gum, the tulip-tree and sweet fern, and in nearly all the maples and oaks. There is a peculiar beauty in the mere shape of the leaf of the Japan maidenhair tree, which is named after the maidenhair fern because, like the fern, it is shaped like a partly-opened fan, with the broad end slightly parted in the middle, or like the ordinary fashion in which women wear their hair on the temple. This leaf is not only singular in its shape but also in being parallel veined and nearly alike on both sides. This tree, though both broad-leafed and deciduous, belongs to the great pine family, all the other members of which are needle-leaved and all evergreen except the larch and two species of cypress.
In deciduous character and in the manner in which the leaves are clustered on the stem, the maidenhair and the larch closely resemble each other, one of the species of the latter, Koempfer’s golden larch, having also a flat leaf of considerable breadth, as may be seen by the specimen near the “farmstead.” The light-green, feathery foliage of the deciduous cypress, a fine group of which may be seen on the westerly slope of the south bay of the lake, has a delicate beauty of color and airy lightness of form, unequalled by any other member of the member of the pine family hardy enough for our climate. When fading in autumn it usually changes to a deep crimson, while the foliage of the larches and of the maidenhair turns about the same time to a bright, clear yellow. These three conifers compensate for their lack of evergreen quality in winter by the lighter green of their summer foliage and the brilliant coloring of their leaves in autumn.
Another ornamental feature of the foliage of some trees and shrubs is in some special texture of the leaf, such as a polished or very smooth surface, or an unusual thickness and firmness to the touch. All the oak leaves have one or other of these qualities, and when firm substance, fine shape and glossy surface are combined as in black, red and scarlet oaks, the ornamental character of the foliage is very striking. The sour gum, cockspur thorn, silk vine and the shining willow are also notable nor the glistening surface of the leaves. Many broadleaved evergreens have this quality, but as few of them are hardy here we can only infer their bright effect in a winter landscape by looking at our more or less damaged specimens of roseberry, kalmia, holly, ivy, mahonia, Japanese euonymous and California privet.
Where there is a strong contrast in color between the upper and under side of the leaves, a striking effect is produced when the whiter under surface is partly exposed to view by the wind. The white and grey poplars are out best examples of this, both because the leaves are so white underneath and because they also turn up so readily in the slightest breeze. Our silver maple, white willow and oleaster are also notable for the fine mixture of gray and green in their foliage when stirred by a light gale. Foliage that flutters constantly to every passing zephyr, however gentle, appeals to the ear as well as to the eye. The lesser aspen is our best example of this, as its musical patter may be heard and its tremulous motion seen when but for these signs the air might be supposed to be perfectly calm. All the poplars flutter and rustle in a light breeze, and the white birch joins with equal readiness both dance and chorus. Maple leaves also are easily moved, but their motion is slower and quieter. The leaves of the yellow and honey locusts have a slow and slight diurnal motion, which seems half voluntary, or akin to the movement of a sensitive plant. The leaflets fold downwards, back to back, along the midrib of the pinnate leaf, at the approach of darkness or a cold rain-storm, and on the return oflight and warmth again open outwards and upwards. All leaves turn up towards the light, and many kinds seem to flag slightly at night, but only the locust suggests the idea of going regularly to sleep every night.
The fragrance which the leaves of several species exhale is seldom noticed, because not expected as in flowers, and often not perceptible unless the leaf be bruised. But the list of hardy wood plants with sweet-scented foliage is larger than is generally supposed. It comprises the spicebush, all-spice, bayberry, aromatic sumach, sweet-fern, and sweet-briar among shrubs, and such well-known trees as the balsam, poplar, black birch, white birch, sweet gum, English walnut and European bird cherry. The perfume is not so delicate or exquisite as in many flowers, but flowers soon fade, while leaves last all summer.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 19 September 1886:
A Chapter on the Forms of Familiar Trees.
As the park contains several hundred different kinds of trees and shrubs, all planted about the same time, it is interesting to observe the relative size and form of the plants of each species when all are so nearly of the same age. The older native woods within the park also contain a rich variety of forest trees or coppice, so that the special characteristics which these assume at a mature age may also be noted. It is not often that so varied a collection can be seen within the same limits of space, and an unusually fine opportunity is thus afforded to the student to compare the distinctive features of each kind. It will be seen that in this regard there is the same diversity already noted in flower, fruit and foliage, and also the same generic resemblance among plants of the same species.
Trees and shrubs of the same kind are of course more or less unlike each other, according as differences of soil, situation and general environment more or less affect individual character. But through all this variability there runs a specific “family likeness,” each kind has its own characteristic form and outline, its own relative stoutness and denseness of the branches, and its own specific mode of ramification. Between a deciduous tree and a pine, between a Lombardy poplar and a weeping willow, an elm and an oak, a lilac and a gooseberry, the contrast in form is so great that any novice can notice it at a glance. The forms intermediate between these two extremes, though less noticeable, are equally characteristic of the species to which each belongs. Cultivators thoroughly familiar with such plants can tell each kind at sight if only the general shape and “sky line” be visible, even when the distance is too great to recognize the foliage, or the light insufficient, as at night.
Compared with deciduous trees as a class the mode of ramification of evergreen conifers is radically different. In pines, firs and spruces the trunk maintains its identity straight up through the center of the branches until it terminates in the topmost twig. All the branches are relatively small and branch off more or less horizontally in regular whorls all around the central shaft, the end of each year’s growth of the stem being marked by one of these whorls. The cedar, cypress, arbor vitae, juniper and yew have the same general habit, but some kinds of juniper and yew branch irregularly, and some have even a prostrate habit of growth. The larch, bald cypress and maidenhair tree, though deciduous, show their relationship to the pines by having the same habit of growth.
In contrast with these the characteristic types of a few deciduous trees may here be briefly indicated. The native maples are well known and will furnish examples of the different habits of different species of the same genus. The white or silver maple is the most rapid in growth, the branches being unusually long in proportion to their stoutness, the lower limbs having always a downward sweep at their ends, and the smaller branchlets hanging more or less pendent. The sugar maple is more erect and compact, the main branches very variable in number and size, but forging off always at a sharp angle and well furnished with twigs, the whole head being remarkably symmetrical and usually greater in height than breadth. The red maple is rounder and more compact than the white, but not so tall and neat as the sugar maple, though varying more than either of the others according to soil and moisture supply.
In like manner the different kinds of oaks vary from each other. The white oak is broadest in proportion to height, the main limbs being remarkably large and branching off at a large angle, while the smaller branches are stiff and much gnarled, the whole aspect indicating much rugged strength, but little elegance. The black and the burr oaks have also very strong boughs and sturdy branchlets, the whole top being relatively higher than in the white oak. The red and scarlet oaks have the branches straighter and more erect, with the general outline more regular and often finely proportioned. The pin oak is entirely different from all these, as it approaches quite close to the pine tree type, the head being tall and narrow with a straight central stem clear to the top, and numerous small side branches, the lowermost ones sloping downwards.
As examples of peculiar form or widely differing types we may cite the fastigiate character of the Lombardy poplar, the many irregular gaps in the general outline of the hickory and of the honey locust, the picturesque eccentricities of the sour gum, the dense globular head of the horsechestnut, the bold outward sweep of the white elm, the slender spray of the birch, and the long pendent tresses of the weeping willow. As the oak is the type of rugged strength and the elm of majestic dignity, the ash is the model of a handsome form, the white birch a pattern of grace, and the willow a picture of humility.
Perhaps no tree shows so much variety of outline as the white elm. It is sometimes so irregular and unbalanced as to be positively grotesque, but usually the expression is that of great symmetry and elegance. No other tree so quickly loses the identity of its trunk in the main boughs, which sweep boldly upwards at a sharp angle and bend gradually outward, slowly diminishing as the branchlets are thrown out until near the extremities they arch gracefully downward and hold in suspense the fine flowing spray. When this outward sweep of the branches is regular on all sides, as it often is, the general form is that of an immense plume, with a hollow cone of wine glass shape in the center of the top. The pendent spray of this tree is a beautiful feature, compared with which the aspect of most of our so-called weeping trees is positively ugly. In the cut-leaved birch and weeping willow the great length and slenderness of the hanging spray are redeeming qualities of much beauty in certain situations, as when the willow overhangs a stream, and its tresses are reflected in the water, with the tips of the longest twigs floating of the current.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 26 September 1886:
A Chapter Upon the “Weeping” Class of Trees.
An Abnormal Arboreal Growth.
Except for the birch and the willow, none of the young trees in the park of the class called “weeping,” because of their drooping habit of growth, give evidence of long life or lasting beauty. Most of them, though not twenty years old, have already lost in a large measure such comeliness of form and proportion as they had in their earlier years. Those kinds that have a slow growth, with slender twigs and a neat parsol-like regularity of head, look pretty during the few years that the size of the head is in fair proportion to the length and the strength of the stem. The varieties that have a coarser and ranker habit of growth are ungainly from the start, and as soon as the hanging shoots touch the ground, the main branches sprawl awkwardly in the effort of the tree to “hold up its head,” and the general aspect is one of ugly deformity.
As all these varieties are the offspring of some chance sport, they can be grown only by grafting on saplings of the common stock. This union is necessarily made at a height of less than ten feet from the ground, even when the tallest of the young stocks are selected for this purpose. If the graft be of vigorous growth, it soon reaches the limit of its downward extension, while if it be of a weakly habit the superior vigor of the stock forces a growth of natural shoots below the graft, which soon absorb all the sap and starve to death the intruder. If the growth of these offshoots be prevented by constantly lopping off as they appear, and the desired head is kept in trim form by the frequent pruning of the longest or lowest shoots, the tree, having no room to expand in a natural way, soon forms such a dense mass of twigs within the limits allowed to it that the newer branches on top smother those underneath, and as they die the infection of decay soon spreads over the whole plant.
Examples of these constitutional defects apparent in most weeping trees may be seen, not only in the park, but also throughout the city wherever such trees have been tried. The kinds most commonly cultivated are the Kilmarnock and fountain willows and drooping varieties of birch, cherry, ash, beech, elm, poplar, maple, linden and rowan. The last two have such a rank growth that in a few years the aspect is that of a young tree crushed down and permanently deformed by some accident. The weeping ashes and elms maintain a certain symmetry for a rather longer period but are never shapely or attractive except for their oddity. The main branches of the weeping beech have an uncertain upward tendency sufficient to form a lofty head at maturity but the contrast between the pendulous twigs and the stiff contorted branches is so strong and unnatural as to have a grotesque effect. The dwarf willows, birches and cherries of drooping habit are neat and well proportioned for a longer period, but useful mainly as toys.
All of these trees are of comparatively recent evolution, and they cannot be perpetuated except by grafting on the parent stock. But the Babylonian weeping willow has been in constant cultivation “on its own roots” since its first introduction into Europe from the Orient more than 150 years ago. It is not only the oldest and largest, but it is also in many respects still the foremost of its class. No other drooping tree is so entirely pendulous, for every leaf as well as every twig hangs perfectly perpendicular. It excels also in the great length, fineness and flexibility of the hanging withes. These sway to and fro so easily to every passing breeze that the tree, except when viewed from a distance, has little of that heavy expression so characteristic of drooping trees. The small leaves also are so
hoary on one side and so light green on the other that the sombre aspect natural to the bent form is counteracted by its lively color.
As it is a native of a much warmer climate and naturally continues growing very late in the season, the twig being brittle and the ends not fully ripened, a large proportion of each year’s growth is broken off or killed back every winter. But where the annual growth is so long and heavy and slender this natural pruning is a benefit, as otherwise the head would soon become overloaded and many of the larger limbs be broken. As young slips root easily, however carelessly stuck into the ground, it is propagated entirely by cuttings. It is a curious fact that the usual method of growing from seed is not available, as among western nations no fruit has ever been seen on this tree. Only the female plant is known in cultivation, the first slips introduced into Europe happening to be of this variety only. Thus all the progeny, having been grown from cuttings, are virtually offshoots of the same plant. It is probable the only hardy plant on this continent on which no fruit is ever found. As the female flower is inconspicuous and but rarely produced here, that also is almost equally unknown in the northern states.
In length and fineness of the drooping spray the cut-leaved birch ranks next to the willow. Its form, however, is very different, because the leading branches of the tree top have a more erect habit. Though the main branches are often too sparse and straggling, the general form is narrow and tapers gradually to the peak, the very opposite of the dense, broadly-rounded head of the willow. The slender spray, however, is perfectly pendulous and hangs fringe-like from the outspread branches in a manner exceedingly light and graceful. The whole tree is so slender and pliable to the wind that its flowing tresses float on the breeze in the manner so well expressed by Tennysonin this line from “Amphion:” “The birch tree swung her fragrant hair.” The epithet of “shock-head willow” in the same poem, in reference to the drooping ears in the head of a sheaf of wheat, is a comparison unjust to the willow and unworthy of the poet.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 3 October 1886:
Lingering Blossoms Still to be Seen at the Park.
The Approach of Winter.
Though it is now the month of October, fresh flowers are still appearing on several species of shrubs in the park. They are most conspicuous on the althea, on which plump flower buds opening daily promise to keep up the supply for another week or two if not checked by frost. Bladder senna and matrimony vine are also blooming freely, while a few stray flowers may be seen on the shrubby cinquefoil, kerria, weigela, wild hydrangea and two species of spirea. Trusses of panicled hydrangea, quite fresh looking, may be seen on plants that have been in bloom for more than two months. Japanese honeysuckle and vine-bower clematis are also in bloom yet on the verandas of many houses in the city.
There is surely something unnatural in hardy plants flowering so late in the season. As the seed cannot have time to ripen, the main purpose of the flower will miscarry, and so the effort is in vain. This anomaly must be due to some artificial cause, for nature rarely makes mistakes if left to herself. All of these unseasonable flowers are on plants of foreign origin and from milder regions than this. They are probably misled by so peculiarity of our climate. Either autumn is warmer here than it is in the country in which they are indigenous, and thus they don’t get sufficient hint of the near approach of winter; or our winter is colder, and their seed is “nipped in the bud” which would grow and ripen in their native winter climate.
None of our native shrubs is so short-sighted for the witch hazel flowers cannot fairly be classed with these belated blooms which do not mature any fruit. The seed germ of the witch hazel can hibernate, as it were, all winter, and wake up to a new life next spring. In the witch hazel the flowers are not accompanied, as in these other plants, by new leaves and young twigs, for the youngest shoots are fully ripe and the leaves have faded or fallen. The yellow flowers of this plant are now partly open, and its singular habit of producing flowers amid its sereand yellow leaves and side by side with its newly ripened fruit, may be observed for a month or more. It is abundant in the north meadow woods on the west side of the drive.
This tendency of many plants of foreign origin to prolong the season of active vegetation later than our native trees or shrubs of the same genera is shown in a marked degree at this time by the relative condition of the foliage of each class. For instance, on the several native species of ash, elm, horsechestnut, linden, maple and willow the leaves are already much faded, while on some of them a large proportion has been shed, but the foliage of the European species of each genus is relatively fresh and green. In the shrubberies, too, we may already note the same proportionate early ripening of the leaves of the native shrubs, in striking contrast with the prolonged freshness of the foliage and even continued growth of twigs on many foreign plants. Later in the season the same general rule will apply to the beech, hornbeam and several species of oak on which the leaves cling more or less all winter, for on the European species of each genus the leaves are still more persistent.
It is somewhat surprising at first to note that this late growth is most conspicuous on the plants that are least hardy. The Siberian spirea and the Tartarian honeysuckle, the currant, gooseberry, elder and bird-cherry from northern Europe were all among the earliest of our woody plants to open their leaves in the spring. This proof of their superior hardiness naturally leads us to expect that they would be the last to succumb to the slowly increasing cold of autumn. But instead of this being the case, these same kinds are among the first to shed their leaves. As they are all plants of high latitudes their season of vegetation is naturally shorter than ours, the annual growth is already matured, and the circulation of fresh sap being stopped the leaves drop off. Conversely, the trees and shrubs from the milder climes start later in the spring, require a longer period to mature the new wood, and, our autumns being relatively mild, growth continues until abruptly checked by frost. Therefore the rose of Sharon, the Barbary boxthorn (or matrimony vine) and the African tamarisk, which were the latest of all the shrubs in the park to come into leaf, are to-day growing, and the former two still flowering, as freely as if it were midsummer. It is the unripened wood resulting from this belated growth that is the main defect in all our “half hardy” trees and shrubs.
All of the perfectly hardy plants have now stopped growing, but the twigs of many are not fully ripe yet, and the general body of foliage in woods and coppice is still quite green. The weather of the last part of September was unusually cool and rainy, but without frost, and the autumn coloring, fading and dropping of the leaves have been delayed. Bare branches and russet leaves are noticeable on the native lindens, hickories, elms and buckeye horsechestnuts. Patches of red are visible on hornbeams, currants, dogwoods, sumachs and viburnums. On the quarry ledges the virginia creeper has been of a bright scarlet color for two weeks, but where the vine has had ample moisture the red has not yet fully surplanted the green. The poison ivy is nearly as bright, with a large admixture of yellow with the red. Next to the scarlet creeper, the crimson hues of the red maple are the most conspicuous, and the yellow leaves of the sugar maple are rapidly increasing in number, but neither maple will be at its best for a week yet. It will be two weeks at least before the best general display of autumn tints of all shades can be seen.
At present, however, the bright berries of several species of shrubs are a special attraction at many points. Near the Delaware avenue entrance a large group of snowberry bushes is a really beautiful sight. The berries are truly as white as snow, and crowded in close clusters on the ends of the twigs. They are so abundant that their weight bends the bushes into a drooping attitude. Near the lake margin, on the east shore walk, the high cranberry bushes are likewise heavily laden with crimson fruit. As the foliage drops from the barberry the loosely strung bunches of red fruit hanging from the interior branches come into view and are very pretty. On many of the native thorns the scarlet bows are also abundant and fairly ornamental.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 10 October 1886:
A Chapter on the Brilliant Colors of Autumn Leaves.
The chill air and blustering wind of the first two days of October have been followed by a week of most delightful weather. It has had all the characteristics of our traditional Indian summer, which, however, is said to come in November, but nowadays we never find it in that month. So we must claim that the present is the right time, or any time in this month it may choose to appear. Otherwise we will soon lose our belief in it, as we are doing with so many other myths, however beautiful may be the story they embody.
With the weather so perfectly calm and mild and clear the temptation to out door recreation is stronger than in the heat and glare of midsummer. To all who have a taste for natural scenery the park still presents many attractions, and, though comparatively few visitors are seen strolling through the walks, the drives are will filled at the usual hours. The greensward delights the eye at every turn, for the young grass, which has sprung up since the drouth ended, is as crisp and tender as if it were spring instead of autumn. The woods and shrubberies are still clothed in a goodly mantle of foliage, while many of the plants are exchanging the green robe of summer for the parti-colored livery of autumn. This mild weather is rapidly hastening the change in the color of the foliage in several species, and bright tints are prominent here and there, though not generally conspicuous and nowhere massed in any large body.
The autumn tints of American forests have the reputation of being much more brilliant than those usually seen at this time in the woods and waysides of Europe. This may be partly due to difference in climate, but it is chiefly owing to the great difference in the species most prevalent in each country. None of those trees or shrubs most showy here in autumn are indigenous in Europe, while on the other hand nearly all European plants cultivated here show less body of color than in their native country. The high reputation of our autumn foliage is upheld by a comparatively few species. Yellow is represented chiefly by birch, honey-locust, larch, mulberry, poplar, tulip-tree, spicebush and witch-hazel; red by sour gum, sweet gum, buckeye and several species of oak among trees, and sumachs, dogwoods, viburnums, Virginia creeper, whortleberry and blackberries among shrubs. Variegated tints of both red and yellow are chiefly shown by red and sugar maples, shadbush and poison ivy. It is the relative abundance of these plants in our woods that gives such a gorgeous effect to many of our hillsides in October.
The date, durability and degree of color of this annual display vary much in different years. The most brilliant hues are seen when a wet summer is followed by a cool autumn. Frost is supposed by many to help bring out the brightest tints, but this is only a popular fallacy. A sharp frost instead of polishing really tarnishes all it touches, especially in the earlier stages of the changes in color. If the ripening be too far advanced to be readily stained, its harmful influence will be shown by the immediate shedding of the leaves. During the day following a night’s sharp frost the ground under the trees will be thickly littered by the dropping leaves.
Evidently this is an “off year” in the coloring of the fall foliage. Though it is yet too early for the best display, such trees as come earliest show much less brilliancy than is usual. The hues of the buckeye, and the red and sugar maples have been relatively dull, a faded green or rusty brown being more common than the ordinary crimson and gold. In favorable seasons a strong, dull yellow is shown by walnuts, butternuts, sweet chestnuts, elms, hickories, horse chestnuts, lindens and beeches. This season all of these trees show only a dull mixture of rusty yellow and brown. The cause of this general lack of bright color in these plants is probably the drouth of August. This prematurely checked the ordinary circulation of the sap, which was not fully restored by the later rains, and thus the leaves have faded rather than ripened.
We are wont to speak of autumn leaves as being yellow, scarlet, crimson, purple, orange, etc., but these colors are rarely pure. When illuminated by sunshine and seen by refracted light, the terms used may seem accurate. But on close examination the leaves that showed so clear and uniform a tint in the sun, are seen to be a stained mixture of impure colors. In purity and delicacy of shade they will not bear comparison with flowers, nor even with the spring color of the opening leaves of some species. The shade is always deepest in the earlier stages of the change, and gradually become lighter till the leaf is shed. The duration of the brightest hues is very brief, and the whole display is only a “fleeting show.” If sought at the right nick of time a pure and uniform shade of crimson or scarlet may be found on some of the leaves of the red maple, the scarlet oak, the sour gum, the sweet gum and the Virginia creeper. In similar circumstances, pure yellow may be found in the leaves of those plants mentioned above as changing to yellow.
Usually each species of tree or shrub assumes the same range of tints each autumn, varying in degree according to the season. But maples are remarkable for showing much variety in the combination of both red and yellow, both on the same tree and on different trees of the same species. The red maple leaves may be crimson or russet or gold. The sugar maple may show various shades of purple, crimson and orange on the same leaf or on different leaves, and many when fully ripe will be a clear yellow. The leaves of this tree are often most beautiful when closely examined, some of them being veined, mottled and splashed so as to suggest the markings on a butterfly’s wing.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 17 October 1886:
A Few Lingering Blossoms Yet to be Seen in the Park.
Tints of Autumn Leaves.
A few lingering blossoms may yet be seen in the park on the several species of late-flowering shrubs previously mentioned in these notes as remaining partly in bloom through September. Usually such belated flowers as these are blighted by frost and all further production checked before the first of October. This season the minimum temperature has not yet touched 40°, and thus the flowering period of these plants has been prolonged at least two weeks later than ordinary. Even the latest flowerbuds of the althea have this year had time to open. Stray flowers are also appearing, six month ahead of time, on several spring flowering shrubs, this untimely freak of nature being specially noticeable on Forsythias, Thunberg’s spirea and Ledebour’s honeysuckle. The old proverb that “extremes meet” is well illustrated in this union of the latest and the earliest flowering shrubs of the year.
It is worthy of note as further illustrative of the continued mildness of the season that, with the exception of the coleus, all our ordinary summer bedding plants are still fresh in leaf and flower. Such tropical exotics as caladium, castor oil plant and canna flourish safely, except where damaged by wind, and geraniums, verbenias, salvias, ageratums, heliotropes, etc., are flowering abundantly. Blooms of dahlia, sunflower, oleander, morning glory, madeira vine, cobaea and clematis adorn our dooryards and house verandas. In waste fields and waysides golden rods, asters, daisies and buttercups may yet be found in bloom, and the smooth-shaven lawn or well-cropped pasture lot is thickly besprinkled with dandelions.
But the genial warmth which has kept fresh all these flowers has on the other hand hastened the decay of foliage on all deciduous trees and shrubs. The change during one short week has been remarkable. From the early species nearly all the leaves have already been stripped, while the maples that were so richly dressed a few days ago now show only ragged remnants of stained and tattered livery. Many other species show a change nearly as great, but the process of shedding the leaves differs much in rapidity on different species. The white poplar begins early but makes such slow progress that two months may elapse before all the leaves drop off. On the other hand the ailanthus usually retains every leaf green and luxuriant till the first sharp frost comes, but within twenty-four hours thereafter nearly every leaf may be shed. On most trees the interior and lower branches shed their leaves earliest, and “the last leaf on the tree” dangles from the point of the outermost or highest twig. But on some trees, of which the Norway maple may be taken as an example, the outermost leaves are the first to change color, and in due time the first to fall off. In this as in so many other respects the infinite diversity of nature defies all rules.
The most brilliant tints of dying foliage are usually shown in the first half of the general display. Now that the bright colors have vanished from the red and sugar maples, the Virginia creeper, the sour gum and the staghorn sumach, none of their successors seem quite so conspicuous or brilliant. But this may be partly due to the fact that, in the park at least, no other species is so abundant as these. On the few sassafras trees near the southerly angle of the “meadow park” the combination of crimson and gold when at its best stage was, and perhaps still remains, richer than the colors on any of these earlier plants. So also the “royal purple” on some of the “flowering” dogwoods and the lighter shades of red and yellow on many of the hornbeams are today as brilliant as any of the hues that have preceded them. The sweet gum, which is only now beginning to color, also promises to show as much depth and variety of mingled red and yellow as any other species, except a few os the sugar maples.
The white ash has an autumn tint peculiar to itself, and the uniformity of the shade over the whole tree-top is also remarkable. The green leaf first darkens to a chocolate purple and then gradually lightens through violet brown to a dark yellow. The ash trees in the park vary so much in relative maturity of foliage that specimens may be seen in each stage of the process. Several of the species of oak, too, have a peculiar ashen purple shade. The red of the scarlet oak is pale crimson rather than scarlet, and the reddish leaf of the white oak has a slight tint of violet. As the foliage of the oaks is remarkably persistent their reddish-brown and russet leather shades are conspicuous after most other deciduous trees are leafless. As the foliage of all oak leaves is too thick to let the sun shine through it, the autumn colors seem at a distance to be much duller than they actually are. Thin, transparent leaves show off to the best advantage in autumn, as the sunbeam in
passing through them to the eye of the spectator turns red leaves to scarlet, chocolate to purple, brown to orange, russet to gold.
Of the many trees and shrubs of foreign descent in ordinary cultivation few are notable for the color of their autumn foliage. Among those introduced from Europe the chief exceptions are the Norway maple and the larch, yellow, and the smoke-bush and garden pear tree, reddish. From Japan we have the maiden-hair tree, which turns to a bright yellow, the plume-leaved spirea, crimson, and the creeper called Japanese ivy, scarlet. As all of these mature their leaves late in the season, it is only in mild autumns that the above colors are conspicuous. At present the foliage is only just beginning to turn on the earliest of these. The fresh verdure which many foreign plants exhibit for weeks later than species of the same genera indigenous here is some compensation for this lack of high colors as the leaves mature. This lively, lasting green is specially noticeable among our numerous Japanese shrubs, and, when it is seen to last after our brightest autumn tints have vanished, the contrast is on this account all the more pleasing. Some of these shrubs have an evergreen character where the winter is milder, and even here the foliage holds green until December, as may be seen in the Japan privets and honeysuckles.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 24 October 1886:
Brilliant Colors of Fruit and Bark at the Park.
Nearly all of the species of shrubs in the park, which have been producing sparsely a few belated flowers in slow succession since the middle of September, have now finally gone out of bloom. “Killing frosts” have at last blackened out the latest blossoms and checked all further production. The which hazel is now “left alone in its glory,” the only shrub having its normal period of flowering so late in the year. Its slender, yellow petals seem much bent and bruised by the storm, but their color is untarnished by frost, and they will probably adhere to the leafless branches for several weeks to come. Though they have little beauty when examined singly, they are quite effective in combination, and may be readily noticed at a considerable distance after the leaves have been shed. The long duration of the flowers is a notable feature. In some seasons a few of them will hang on till Christmas.
The destructive gale of the 14th played havoc with the brightest-colored leaves. When not entirely stripped off, they remain much torn and frayed and sadly discolored. In a few sheltered localities, as in the north woods, deep tints of both red and yellow may yet be found. A few species that open their leaves late in the season promise considerable color soon if spared by frost. The liquid-amber or sweet gum, the smoke bush or Venetian sumach, the bridal wreath spirea, the deciduous cypress and the Japanese ivy are slowly changing to red. The autumn tints of the oaks are also becoming noticeable, so that the color of the dying foliage, though lacking in brilliance, will be a factor in the landscape until the end of the month.
As the leaves drop off the small berry-like fruits of several species become prominent. The snowberries, cranberries and barberries are not quite so fresh as they have been, but the clusters of privet and bitter-sweet, euonymous, sallowthorn and coralberry have hardly reached their brightest stage. The bitter-sweet and the euonymous are highly ornamental when fully ripe. The berry-like fruit of each has two skins, as it were, both strongly colored with shades of orange, scarlet, crimson or rose, according to the species. When the outer rind splits open it flares back exposing to view a bright colored berry, differing in shade distinctly, but not strongly from the opened husk or shell. In favorable seasons these beautiful fruits are borne in such profusions on the euonymus that the leafless twigs when seen at some distance seem fairly aglow with their flame-like color, and hence its common name of “burning bush.”
The branches of the sallowthorn are also now seen to be thickly beset with small berries of a deep orange tint. Though soft and juicy, frost will not stain them, and they will adhere to the bush firmly till spring. As the small shrub is dioecious of course no fruit is produced if the plants of each sex are growing too far apart for fertilization. The sex of the plant can be told only when it is in its flower or fruit, and as therefore they must be planted at hap-hazard, a large group may occasionally happen to be all of the same sex.
The coral berry or Indian currant is not fully ripe, but the color is brighter now than it will be when ripe. In both shape and color it is not unlike the red coral beads of the jeweler from which it takes its name. This shrub has at all times a very neat habit of growth, and at present it is exceedingly graceful; because the weight of the fruit bends all the branches so uniformly in the form of a bow or arch. The regularity with which the small gems are bunched all along the twigs in the axils of the leaves is also remarkable.
Other small fruits are almost equally deserving of notice at this time. In wet grounds the bright red winterberries are exceedingly pretty, and often so abundant that the low bushes seem almost covered with the fruit. It is the only near relative of the English holly indigenous in this vicinity, and the berries of both species are almost alike, but the holly leaf is evergreen. The berries of the privet, though jet black, are quite attractive because of their glossy skin and the prominent manner in which the clusters of stand out on the bushes. The black, drooping clusters of several species of viburnum are also worth looking at, though they have no polish. Even the neglected net-brier displays at this time fine, compact clusters of small berries perfectly black with a slightly bluish bloom. To botanists it is interesting as belonging to our only endogenous genus that has a woody stem and a netted-veined leaf.
The general thinning out of the foliage reveals to view on both trees and many minor features that were not generally noticeable when the plants were covered with leaves. Peculiarities in the bark, the habit of growth and the mode of ramification are now more readily seen. Some of the differences in the color and character of the bark become specially prominent. The birches take a front rank under this head, as the white, red, yellow and black birches are each well named after the distinctive color of the bark. The habit of peeling off into thin ribbons horizontally around the trunk and rolling up into loose ringlets is characteristic of all the species but is most prominent in the red birch. The garden cherry has in less degree a similar habit.
The bark of all the species of poplar is also strongly colored, and varies from greenish white to dark olive, according to the species. The buttonball has a peculiarly flecked appearance, because the bark of the branches scales off annually in large irregular patches. The form of each flake and the date when it fell off is stamped on the next layer, which varies in color from white to olive, according to the time it has been exposed to the sun. The grey color and smooth skin of the beech tree are well-known, and the latter quality has made it a favorite tablet for jackknife inscriptions. The young shoots of sassafras, weeping willow, ash-leaved maple and euonymous are light green, the white willow is yellowish, the Tartarian honeysuckle is grey, and tamarisk, as well as several species of dogwood and of willow, shows various shades of red, the tint in all cases being deepest after all the leaves are shed.
“The Round Table.”, The Daily Courier, Buffalo, New York, 31 October 1886:
Departure of the Glory of American Autumn Woods.
Series of “Park Notes” Closed.
From the woods and bushy thickets of the park, so recently gorgeous with all the brilliant colors of the fading foliage, “the glory is departed.” Only bare branches and withered leaves are now to be seen in the native groves and among the natural underbrush. But in the new plantations a few species of trees and numerous varieties of shrubs, all of foreign descent, may still be noticed with foliage of a lively green. They come from climes where the season of annual growth is much longer than here, and their ancestral habit is still so strong that they continue their growth too late to be able to ripen fully the youngest shoots. The unripened wood may be killed back by our winters, but this natural pruning rarely does any permanent damage, and the lively green of these plants affords a pleasing contrast to the faded foliage of our native trees and shrubs in October and November.
In mild seasons the same effect is continued partly into winter season by various broad-leaved evergreen shrubs, which, though hardy here, usually shed their leaves before New Year arrives. Our most familiar examples of this class are several species of privet, of honeysuckle and of the heath family. In this respect, however, when midwinter comes our ornamental plantations lack the effect produced by this class of glossy evergreen shrubs which in winter and early spring give such a bright and lively aspect to European gardens and parks. The box, holly, ivy, barberry and laurel of every species and variety thrive so ill here that their leaves in winter lose all their natural gloss and are often permanently damaged. Even our native kalmias and rhododendrons when planted for ornament require some winter protection. These and all our other evergreen shrubs thrive only in the shade and shelter of their native woods, and consequently are seldom seen in cultivation. Most of them have a very low growth or trailing habit, such as bearberry, cowberry, cranberry, creeping snowberry, creeping wintergreen, trailing arbutus, partridge berry and a few species of andromeda and huckleberry.
In winter landscapes our only effective and satisfactory evergreens are the firs, spruces, pines, cedars, junipers and other members of the large conebearing family. At this time, when the leaves on all other trees are fading and falling so fast, the enduring verdure of the conifers brings them into special prominence. They are a class by themselves, standing apart not only by their evergreen character, but also by their very numerous needle-shaped leaves. At this time they present a strong contrast to all trees of the deciduous class by their distinctive forms and their sombre, dark green color. To the expert and the amateur the specific differences that distinguish the various members of each genus are highly interesting, and many of the species have much individual beauty. But to the casual observer the color, form and general character of the few hardiest kinds in ordinary cultivation appear to be so much alike that few of us have much acquaintance with the special traits of each species. Although so many of our larger forests are composed almost exclusively of this class of trees, many of us have probably a better knowledge of the marketable lumber of each kind than of the living trees.
The season of active vegetation in woody plants is now near its close, but many of the grasses and not a few lowly herbs still flourish vigorously. The vivid greenness of the grass on lawn and lea so late in the year is worthy of notice, and also the persistence with which myriads of dandelions spread open their golden disks on every sunny day. It is now nearly seven months since the earliest herbs showed by green blade or swelling bud the advent of spring. The same humble grasses and modest herbs which were the first to greet us on the departure of winter will be the last to bid us adieu on its return.
From week to week since vegetation began, these notes have briefly chronicled some of the more prominent features of the plants in the park. The flowers, leaves, fruits, characteristic terms and transient phases of many of the trees and shrubs have been only noticed with special reference to their more beautiful traits. These current notes may fittingly end with the close of the season of annual growth. Except on fine days there are comparatively few park visitors now. “Round Table” talk on such an outdoor subject can have little interest to any one unless it can be supplemented by personal observation.
But whenever the weather is favorable for a visit the rural scenery of the park will continue to present us many attractive or impressive features if our minds be rightly attuned to enjoy them. Many visitors, however, because they happen to have little knowledge of trees and shrubs, or little taste for landscape beauty, take in like proportion little notice of the sylvan embellishment of the park, either in summer or winter. They perhaps observe with a keener interest personal incidents of their drive or walk, or such accessory objects as the boathouse, the boats, the horsesheds and barns, or the roads and bridges. These artificial structures are provided solely to enable people to visit the several parts of the park with comfort and without damage to the natural elements of the grounds. How often these are the chief objects of interest while all the ever fresh, ever changing features and phases of the verdant landscape are virtually unseen!
The fundamental elements of any large park are its natural landscape, its surface undulations of hill and dale, ridge or ravine, rough rock or smooth lawn, its trees and shrubs, singly or in mass, in grove or copse, its deep woods or open glades, and its broad stretches of greensward or water. All of these in their endless combinations, as constantly modified by the varying conditions of the point of view, the atmosphere and the seasons, constitute the essential elements of a park. To people cooped up in a large city and latently absorbed in the pursuits of a highly artificial mode of life, a rural park provides a healthy tonic by its facilities for quiet relaxation. The best ideal of park recreation is the tranquil enjoyment of all that is beautiful to the eyes, refreshing to the mind or restful to the nerves, as presented by the various manifestations of Nature embodied in the scene.