Arboretum team blog
Kew's Arboretum team is responsible for managing approximately 240 acres of the Gardens at Kew and all of the trees on site, including all tree planting.
The Arboretum is made up of predominantly woody collections of trees and shrubs, laid out taxonomically, with some herbaceous plantings which support these collections, mainly in the Woodland Glade. Key features in the arboretum are the Japanese landscape with the Chokushi-Mon, the Mediterranean Garden, the Rhododendron Dell and Berberis Dell, the bamboo collection with the Japanese Minka House and the Xstrata Treetop Walkway. Some of the key shrub collections include Caprifoliaceae, Oleaceae, Celastraceae and Rosaceae.
Sward management, management of the Natural Areas surrounding Queen Charlotte’s Cottage and the management of the Arboretum Nursery also fall under the direction of the Arboretum team, and will feature on this blog.
Well this is one of the strangest autumnal seasons that I can ever remember. It started early in September, with cool nights without a frost and high day temperatures with moisture in the ground. Everything was looking good for a timely fall with bumper leaf colour, but that all ended in early October with an incredibly hot week where we saw record day and night temperatures reaching about 29°C during the afternoon.
This has confused many plants and suddenly they think they are in spring again with many species flowering for a second time this year. The hollies on Holly Walk are flowering better than they did in May, which could mean no fruit next winter.
A holly in flower
Best fruiting season in memory
With the warm, dry spring this year, however, I have to say that this is the best fruiting season in memory, with the fallen acorns and beech nuts covering the root plates of mature trees in such quantities that they crunch under foot as you walk across the grass.
Acorns covering the ground
This weekend I drove back home to Twickenham from Cornwall along the A303 where hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna) along the hedgerows were thick with their red haws in huge quantities and sloes creating a matt blue haze through the leafless thickets of Prunus spinosa along the roadside.
Highlights at Kew Gardens
Back home in Kew Gardens, the displays of fruit in the arboretum are impressive and must not be missed this year. I love the North Canal beds on the location between the Mediterranean Garden and the Temperate House where you don’t have to walk far to see some unusual fruiting trees and shrubs.
The North American osage orange (Maclura pomifera) has unusual heavy green, brain-like fruits, but be careful when handling these as they ooze a sticky, white milky latex sap when damaged. Both male and female trees are needed for a good show of fruit.
Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) fruiting
Close by are the persimmons in the ebony family, Diospyros virginiana from south-east USA with small, golden, tomato-like fruits and the date plum (Diospyros lotus). Look out for the edible “kaki” (Diospyros kaki), the Chinese date plum, which will ripen to a rich golden yellow, if we get some sunshine before the frosts.
Diospyros virginiana (left) and Diospyros lotus (right)
Despite the flowering confusion with the hollies, some have really excelled with the fruiting, including one species that I collected in Sichuan, China in 1996. It has one of the longest scientific names, Ilex fargesii ssp. fargesii var. fargesii.
Ilex fargesii ssp. fargesii var. fargesii in fruit
One of the most bizarre-coloured fruits are those of Decaisnea fargesii, sometimes known as dead man’s fingers as they look like swollen fingers in a strange most un-natural violet colour.
Dead man’s fingers (Decaisnea fargesii)
If we could have touch and smell on the computer, Viburnum opulus var. xanthocarpum has one of the most vile-smelling fruits when crushed, a smell that is hard to describe. But probably one of the worst smelling fruits, especially when over-ripe, are the golden fruits of the Chinese maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba), which you will find on the female tree on Pagoda Vista at the Palm House end.
The vile-smelling Viburnum opulus var. xanthocarpum
In the Rosa species beds, the yellow hips of Rosa roxburghii are covered in short bristles and have a lovely scented aroma when crushed (if you don’t mind the bristles that is!).
The weather is due to get cold again by the end of the week, so winter is likely to be with us soon. This could mean the end of what was promising to be a bumper fall colour - but the best fruiting autumn.
- Tony -
0 comments on 'A very strange autumn'
Autumn is a wonderful time in Kew’s Arboretum. Some of the deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers are changing into their autumn hues: wonderful shades of yellows, oranges and bright reds, with many colours in between. The colours can vary from year to year and are down to a number of factors, but mainly to weather and day length. Warm sunny days produce lots of sugars in the leaves and it is these that help produce lots of anthocyanin pigments, which make the red and purple hues. The yellows and oranges are from the carotenoids, another pigment which is always present in the leaves, and so these colours are constant in most years. As the day length shortens the leaves are cut off from the tree by what is called the abscission layer, trapping the sugars in the leaves, and as the chlorophyll disappears we are left with the wonderful autumn leaf colour.
What type of weather makes the best colour?
Warm, wet springs with good summers, late summer sun, and cool autumn nights produce the best colour. With October and November generally being the best months, this year seems a little early as the following photos show. This is possibly due to the hot dry spring we had.
Fraxinus americana 'American Ash'
Images: The coppery tones of beech are always a wonderful sight (left), and the stunning red of Liquidambar (right)
What else to look out for in Autumn
Fungi are also a wonderful sight in the autumn, and grow all over the Arboretum so be sure to look out for them over the next few months too. Here are some that can be seen now.
Images: Puffballs and honey fungus (left) and honey fungus(right)
There are still a few bulbs of the large flowered Colchicum autumnale, which will flower for a few weeks yet, as well as the true autumn crocus (Crocus speciosus) and the lovely small purple flowered cyclamen under some of our mature oaks.
Cyclamen hederifolium under an oak tree
Finally, there's more than just the plants, trees and fungi to see... Ivy is one of the last nectar and pollen sources of the year. On warm autumn days butterflies and bees will cover plants for a final feed.
Bee and comma butterfly feeding
- Tony -
- Discover trees and fungi this autumn at Kew
- Find out more about trees
- Visit Kew this autumn
- Experience the Xstrata Treetop Walkway
- Read about Kew's champion trees and fabulous fungi in the new issue of Kew magazine
2 comments on 'Autumn in the Arboretum'
The Arboretum at Kew Gardens has links and involvement with many botanic gardens around the world. Recently I visited the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, which I have developed personal links with over the last ten years. When I'm out there I often research Mediterranean plants in their natural habitat and take part in seed collecting trips for Kew' s plant collections.
Entrance to Gibraltar Botanic Gardens and a mosaic map
The Gibraltar Botanic Garden has recently recruited a new plant propagator, Chris, who has just returned back to Gibraltar from Kew. Whilst here at Kew she shadowed some of the propagators, including Andrew Luke who runs the woody plant nursery in the Arboretum. The changes Chris has made in the nursery since my last visit to Gibraltar are already plain to see. I took some seed and plant material over with me for their collections and use in the new rock garden they are creating.
Building the new rock garden
I also took the time to drop into the gardens to catch up with friends; the Director John Cortes, Jon Hammerton who moved from Kew's Arboricultural Unit to the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens three years ago, and I was also joined for a day in the field by Keith Bensusan, who is in charge of research and collections there.
Keith, Chris and Jon behind-the-scenes at the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens
Viewing species in the Gardens
During my recent trip I was mainly looking at wild Narcissus which are a great interest of mine.
Narcissus in the wild - Left: Narcissus jonquilla Right: Narcissus cuatrecasasii
The weather was great, dry and sunny, and apart from the seven species of Narcissus I saw, there were some early orchids and sand crocus (Romulea clusiana) too.
Left: Barlia robertiana in flower, Right: Romulea clusiana in flower
I also saw heathers and many legumes out in flower, including the wonderful honey scented Coronilla valentina.
Coronilla veluntina in flower
Many of the plants collected from Gibraltar and Spain can be seen growing in Kew's Mediterranean Garden.
- Tony -
2 comments on 'Tony visits the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens and mountains of southern Spain'
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
The Arboretum team blog includes stories about individual plants growing at Kew, information about the growing techniques that we use, and reports on our field trips to see woody plants growing in their natural habitats. You can also find out how we look after Kew's renowned world plant collections.
The fruits of autumn at Kew Gardens: Like many "plant" lovers when I see something I am not familiar with I have to find out what it is. ... by: Miriam Hammond
The fruits of autumn at Kew Gardens: There is a sapling of Koelreuteria paniculata xpride of India planted in the Dean's garden at Canter ... by: Rama Sarkhel
Late summer flowers at Kew: The echinacea looks stunning with a glimpse of the Princess of Wales Conservatory behind it.. by: oak leaf
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