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UBC Botanical Garden Blog

News and notes from UBC Botanical Garden staff.

March 5, 2009

Catkin Walk

The February 11, 2009 Walk and Learn for the Friends of the Garden was on the topic of catkins. These are some of the plants we encountered and ideas we discussed:

Food Garden

  • Corylus avellana (common hazelnut or common filbert) -- long pendulous pale yellow male catkins and shorter female catkins with small red nodule on the stem above the catkin. Shed pollen in December and January in Vancouver. Protective measure ensures complete pollen distribution by gradual catkin development on each tree. Wind pollinated.

Native Garden

  • Alnus rubra (red alder) -- Catkins develop on bare branches in late winter. Male catkins elongate to about 5 to 10 cm and become dull yellow as they shed pollen in March. Small female catkins are in clusters of 3 to 5 become hard and woody resembling a small conifer cone. Wind pollinated.
  • Myrica californica (California wax myrtle) -- Evergreen leaves have black dots. No catkins at this date.
  • Myrica gale (sweet gale) -- Deciduous leaves have yellow dots. This is an important nitrogen fixing species.
  • Betula papyrifera (white birch, canoe birch) -- Male and female flowers in separate catkins 2 to 4 cm long. Flower at same time before leaves emerge.

Alpine Garden

  • Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys' (black pussy willow) -- Deciduous. Black catkins with red anthers in early spring before leaves. Dioecious. Insect pollinated.
  • Nothofagus antarctica (Antarctic beech) -- no catkins at this date.
  • Garrya elliptica (or similar) (silk tassel bush) -- long gray-green male catkins

Discussion on convergent evolution: the process whereby organisms that are not closely related, evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments. A good example of this is the catkin and the cone.

The following file can be viewed if you have Google Earth installed. It includes the locations of the plants we discussed as well as photographs by Randal Mindell. Google Earth Map of Catkin Walk (KMZ file)

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 2:25 PM

February 10, 2009

Winter Buds

Here are some photographs taken by Randal Mindell during a Friends of the Garden Walk n' Learn on Wednesday morning, January 28. I invited Randal along since he needed to become familiar with the new camera as part of his main job.

Although it was a cold morning, we had a look at the following buds: Ruscus hypoglossum, brussel sprouts, Petasites albus (just emerging from the ground!), Cladrastis kentukea, Quercus macrocarpa, Sorbus decora, Aesculus octandra, Quercus garryana, Acer pensylvanicum, Fraxinus americana 'Royal Purple', Rhus typhina and Cornus kousa.

Acer pensylvanicum: note the stalked buds, typical of the snakebark maples.


Aesculus octandra: just plain cool.


Cornus kousa: these buds are described as turbinate -- wonder why?


Fraxinus americana 'Royal Purple': in the second photograph, note how the branches flatten at the buds.


Rhus typhina:


Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 2:59 PM

January 14, 2009

Winter Damage To Date

I took some Friends of the Garden (FOGs) around the garden early this morning to examine a bit of the winter damage caused by the cold and heavy snowfall of the preceding few weeks. Many thanks to the horticulturists who suggested highlights to visit. Also, a thank you to the FOG "tour volunteers" for recording notes, typing them, and seeking feedback / suggestions for future tours.

For this week, I was both the tour guide and videographer, so the video isn't as dynamic as I hope it will be in future postings. Anyway, here's the video snippet of some of the tour:

Here are a few notes (as compiled by one of the tour attendees) from this first FOGs Walk n' Learn.

Location 1: Courtyard & Fence just east of the shop plant centre -- off the main walkway

  • Modest snow damage to the Arbutus which had been winter pruned and new shoot growth allowed. There is also some frost damage.
  • There is vole damage throughout the beds and the sub-shrubs and perennials will require spring pruning.
  • The Nandina is totally brown and will need to be cut right back and allowed to regrow.
  • Holboellia vine on the fence is very robust and together with the weight of the snow has brought down the fence
  • Some lost branches from the hemlock

Location 2: Moon Gate

  • The load of the snow on the Sinocalycanthus pressed it down and revealed a young Schefflera alpina planted by Peter Wharton and apparently totally healthy
  • Distylum racemosum has again suffered major damage due to its dense foliage and requires a lot of maintenance. This shrub is due for removal

Location 3: Food Garden

  • Broccoli was removed from the Food Garden due to its very strong smell as it rotted under the snow
  • Cauliflower was also rotten - unable to withstand the freezing temperatures.

Location 4: Physic Garden

  • The yew hedge was almost pushed to the ground by the weight of snow, but rebounded "like a Russian gymnast"!

Location 5: Alpine Garden

  • Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa' has lost several large branches and will be removed.
  • Pinus thunbergii also lost large branches and will probably also be removed.
  • Genista tenera was so badly damaged with frost at the centre it has to be removed and will be a great loss to the landscape at that point in the Garden.
  • Araucaria angustifolia was planted last year and is still only about a meter high with little root growth - it is completely brown.
  • Hebes are not looking very good but will probably survive.
  • Leptospermum rupestre has lost several branches and been quite severely pruned
  • Eucalyptus coccifera has seemingly responded to the cold weather using its fire response to produce many tiny branches from the main trunks (from cold winters in previous years)
  • Grevillea victoriae has been damaged but will survive.

The scent of, possibly, the Azara was very pleasant and strong and the Anna's male hummingbird and his friends were very much in evidence around their favourite grevillea.

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 4:43 PM

October 23, 2008

A Little History and A Treetop Photo

We're very fortunate to have a highly-accomplished photographer like Alex Waterhouse-Hayward so interested and appreciative of the garden. I'd like to direct you to a couple recent weblog entries from him featuring UBC BG:

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 9:26 AM

August 28, 2008

Visit from a Barred Owl

I received a call yesterday @ 10:30am from David Grieser, the garden supervisor, that a barred owl was hanging out near the moon gate in the Asian Garden.

Heading over there with camera in tow, I took a few photographs before heading back and reporting to the fine folks at the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) that we might have an injured owl in the garden. The drooping right wing and some aberrant behaviour (allowing people to approach it and occasionally sitting on the ground) hinted to me that something wasn't quite right.

The animal care people at OWL suggested that it might have a bruised or broken wing:

If bruised, I was told it should recover eventually. In the meantime, staff are keeping an eye out for the owl to help ensure it is perched in trees, etc.

If the wing is broken, I was told that the owl will eventually weaken to the point where it can be captured and sent for care and rehab. It will be found on the ground and unable to fly to a perch.

So, the staff are keeping an eye out for the owl now (it went into hiding as of late yesterday afternoon). If you're visiting the garden and you spot it on the ground or appearing to be in some difficulty, do inform a staff member, so one of us can investigate and call OWL if the owl is in need of care. Thank you!

barred_owl1.jpg barred_owl2.jpg

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 10:55 AM