Well. Another thing happened on the field trip to the Capitol Grounds. We saw a cultivar of one of my favorite trees, the Nyssa sylvatica, or Black Gum. In the south these guys are also called Tupelos, and from their flowers bees make the famous Tupelo Honey (cue Jeff Tweedy).
I am pretty much obsessed with native plants, at least in part because I believe that developing a love for them in our gardens will keep the native ecosystem more intact while backyards get busy making up an increasing portion of the land. I mean give the caterpillars something to eat! You know how picky they are…
And with so many of my friends in the woods troubled by newcomers and perhaps unlikely to be around for much longer, like the Ashes with their Ash borer, the Elms with Dutch Elm disease, and the ghostly remainders of old Chestnuts felled by the blight, I am suspicious of outsiders.
This has made me a big advocate for planting the Black Gum. It is lovely and turns a brilliant red in early September, maintaining it until at least around this time of year. There are some cultivars although I have read online that they don’t achieve the color as early or as brightly as our friends in the forest. But then I saw the Autumn Cascade. It is a WEEPING Black Gum. And its leaves are so red that it is hard to believe. A cultivar is the same species, but bred selectively, like a Golden Retriever or a really big potato, to enhance certain features. Some cultivars are not fertile. That is another way of saying they don’t produce fruit. That takes a bit out of my whole feed the hungry native animals thing. Fruit is one of the major food sources a tree provides. Come winter and the fruits on trees sustain most of our sweet overwintering bird friends. The Nyssa produces a little drupe that looks like a blue pomegranate seed. I do not know whether the Autumn Cascade cultivar fruits or not. Information has been a little hard to get because this dude was bred in Australia.
This is about the trippiest thing I can think of. A native plant taken away for breeding and then returned to its homeland? Very confusing. But still a native I guess. If I moved to Australia I would have to give a little more thought to planting it. As far as I can tell it is only native to the East Coast of the US down through Texas and Florida. If you want one in your yard, I advise you to investigate its hardiness. I can say that despite whatever its care may not have been during the government shutdown, the one I saw in Washington DC looked happy as a clam. And far prettier.