Saturday, December 19, 2015

Possible Sewer Damage Has Homeowner Singing the Bamboo Blues

Here at the Arboretum bamboo (like this Phyllastachys aurea) can obtain epic proportions. 

Q. My neighbor has recently planted giant clumping bamboo over the common plumbing easement for the city sewage line where their line and mine run. Do we have a potential future issue with these roots attacking and obstructing the waste line? If so what can we done about it that I can recommend to them.

A. That all depends on how deep, old and well maintained your sewage line is. Bamboo have fibrous roots that generally go no deeper than 24 inches. If your sewage line is relatively shallow (2 feet or less) then it is probably not up to code because many city codes require burial of sewer lines at least 2 feet below grade and it will have problems with the bamboo roots, but only if the line is also leaking -which should be fixed anyway. If you are up to code and your line is not leaking you should not have any problems with the roots of any bamboo or tree for that matter. So getting to the root of the problem -plant/sewer problems are almost always the fault of faulty, leaking, cheap, or not installed to code sewer lines and not the fault of the plant.

So what should you do if you're concerned? Have a plumber check your lines if your worried -it's not your neighbor's responsibility to check and see if your plumbing is up to code. You also might want to mention to your neighbor (during the dinner you've invited them to in order to smooth out your relations) that bamboo is, in general, a huge water hog that really isn't compatible with our current water conservation paradigm.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wanderings in the Arboretum Collection: Spine of the Cross

Colletia paradoxa

Located in the southwestern corner of the Water Conservation Garden, a strange and formidable looking plant, Colletia paradoxa (syn. Colletia cruciata), is blooming. A member of the same family as Jujubes and Ceanothus, the plant itself resembles a kind of cactus. It has mostly no leaves but instead has flattened triangular stems that give the plant its unique look. It eventually grows up to 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Besides looking like a cactus the stems are stiff, tipped with spines, and quite dangerous –this is not a plant for right next to your basketball court. It is, however, a great plant for keeping people out of areas they are not supposed to be in.

The flowers are quite spectacular; small, white  1/8” to ¼”   wide and bell shaped blooms that cluster around the flat stems like popcorn. They are rumored to smell like custard, however I did not notice any smell coming from them as I was photographing them.

The plant, which is commonly called espina de la cruz (spine of the cross) in Spanish,  is found in the montane hills of Uruguay, Southern Brazil, Northern Argentina and parts of Chile. Although it is very drought tolerant here, the areas that it’s native to aren’t particularly dry. The specimen here in the Water Conservation, according to our accession records, came from Humboldt University; that is Humboldt University in Berlin Germany. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Wanderings in the Arboretum Collection: 臭茉莉 Chòu mò lì (Stink Jasmine; Glory Bower)

Clerodendrum chinense bloom.

Located in a patch of ground on the west side of the tropical greenhouse, the weedy looking green shoots of the Clerodendrum chinense pop up over an area of about 100 or so square feet. A native of China, this interesting plant has the nickname there of “Stink Jasmine”. Smelling the white, capitate clusters of blooms you are immediately impressed with their pleasant jasmine-like scent that somewhat borders on that of Gardenias. Why the “Stink Jasmine” moniker for this un-mint-like member of the mint (formerly the verbena) family?
Clerodendrum chinense plant

The answer to this riddle is quickly obtained with one ‘scratch and sniff’ of its leaves: they smell like rancid peanut butter. This same smell can be noticed on the Tree of Heaven (Ailianthus altissima) with which Clerodendrum chinense shares the first part of their common names in Chinese ( 臭茉莉 (Chòu mò lì ) meaning Stink Jasmine and 臭椿(Chòu Chun) meaning Stink Tree -being the symbol for ‘stink’ in Chinese). This specimen was first obtained from San Marcos Growers in 1994 under its old name Clerondendrun phillipinum. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wanderings In The Arboretum Collection: Nuxia floribunda

This medium sized tree sits prominently on the north edge of the Bauer lawn and is in full bloom right now. It’s pom-pom like clusters of fluffy white blooms have a not unpleasant slight sweet scent, adding to the already pleasant shade it throws on the bench located underneath its canopy on its south side. It’s shape makes it quite a pleasant looking tree, having a classic umbrella appearance.
Nuxia floribunda on the north edge of the Bauer lawn. 

It is native to South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe where it can be found in forests between 900 and 4,000 feet. Although it used to be in the Buddleia family it has recently been placed in the mint order in the relatively obscure Stilbaceae family. This particular specimen derives from plant material obtained from the Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden in South Africa. It has been widely planted in South Africa as an ornamental, and its bark and roots have medicinal value. 

Nuxia floribunda's sweet smelling, frothy white flowers are quite attractive. 

Nuxia's gnarled base add to its appeal.