Monday, April 14, 2014

Arbutus Update

Even for a true fan, it is easy to understand the question, "Why all the fuss?"  Arbutus is after all just a low evergreen ground cover that is easy to simply walk past.  I find the scent of the flowers delicious while the man that allowed me to dig these plants thinks that the scent is close to the smell of cat urine.  Lacking a close personal relationship with a cat, I can neither support nor refute his comparison.  My visits to these plants now number several each day.  These transplants are about to start their fourth year here and they are alive and well.  That in itself is a wonder.

These flower buds are close to opening.  Today the temperature climbed to the high seventies F, but tomorrow may see low twenties.  All five of these arbutus plants have bud clusters including our from seed, naturally sown daughter plant.  The rightmost plant has buds for the first time.  The plant in the lower center of the picture was chewed to the nub by a woodchuck and it is in bud for the first time since the attack.  A total bud cluster count of 24 is easily reached.  To say that we are excited is an extreme understatement.  Both plant genders were represented in the two plants that flowered last year. Identifying the gender of the remaining three is at the top of the things to do list.  

Many mysteries continue to present themselves when looking at these plants.  Here are the first dead arbutus leaves that we have ever seen on our plants.  These leaves are new growth that appeared last year on the plant that was chewed by the woodchuck.  We have no clue as to the cause of death on these young leaves but the brown boils might need to be removed.  We have no clue regarding the natural life cycle of these evergreen leaves.  They seem to live indefinitely.

Flowers will soon open here.  We will attempt to distribute pollen with a small artist's brush.  We want excellent photos of individual flowers.  The structure of both the male and the female flowers needs to recorded in picture as does the development of the pollen and ovaries.  So far a clear picture of the deep white flower parts that are surrounded by sticky clear and white hairs has eluded us.  A small tripod with bendable legs is due to be delivered tomorrow.  That may not be enough since the camera always seems to focus on the nearby leaves rather than the flowers.

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