Friday, May 18, 2012

Transplanted Arbutus One Year Out

One year ago on this date, the four arbutus, Epigaea repens, pictured here were dug from their home in the wild and moved to Stone Wall Garden.  All four plants are alive but some are doing better than others.  The plant pictured above is in the top center of the group portrait.  Its dark leathery leaves were carried through the winter.  Chewed edges and tan spots speak of the rigors of life in the wild.    The brown remains of the blossoms may be forming seed.  Purple hairy stems show the beginnings of new growth with two new leaves just beginning to form.  This is life as it should be at this time of year.

Two plants along the left edge of the photo suffered an early spring attack.  The pair of dark leaves at the upper left are all that remains of the plant whose crown is at the edge of the moss patch.  Their stem remains attached to the crown and their buds opened into a magnificent cluster of scented flowers.

The grandest plant of the four was eaten down to the crown located in the center of the left most moss patch.  Water and words of encouragement were brought freely after the attack but there was no sign of life here.

The plant on the right is the runt of the group.  Its placement deep in the moss kept it out of view of the hungry woodchuck.

This is the new growth that is just appearing on the plant in the center.  Watching the bare stubs of this damaged plant has led me to conclude that arbutus growth follows a cycle that nothing can alter.  For weeks the remains of this damaged plant showed absolutely no activity.  Then, on the same schedule as the undamaged plants, new growth appeared.  The energy for this growth came from the crown and the roots since no old leaves remained.  We will watch and compare as this plant works to reestablish itself.  We will also look to see when the undamaged plants drop their old leaves.

A wire cage imprisons our collection of arbutus plants providing protection from whatever ate two of the plants.  Nearly every day the cage is removed so that we can monitor growth.  Several young weeds remain in place since their growth resembles arbutus.  We are hoping for new plants from seed.  We have never seen new seed born plants in real life or in picture so we do not know exactly what to look for.  When  new plants reveal themselves clearly as weeds they will be removed.

Questions remain unanswered concerning the details of the life cycle of arbutus.  The plant is evergreen carrying old leaves through the winter into spring.  When these old leaves are shed is not yet known to us.

There are both male and female plants.  We looked for differences in flower structure but found none. We may have only one gender present in our modest planting or we may need to become better at seeing what is in front of us.  If any of our plants develop seed, we will see if it is viable.

I am ready to call the transplants successful.  We went 0 for 40 on the cuttings.  I must give that another go but on a much smaller scale.  That much death is hard to deal with.

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