Three from the Rare Tree Collection at Dawes Arboretum

The rare tree collection at Dawes Arboretum inspired my husband and I to start our own little rare tree collection.  (As a side-note, I am aware that saying we “collect rare trees” sounds a bit absurd.  On the one hand, trees are so common that “rare tree” feels oxymoronic.  But just saying we collect “trees” wouldn’t be accurate and it sounds rather like Bert’s paper clip collection on Sesame Street.  But when you throw in the “rare” bit, it ends up sounding like the weirdly inflated claim of a comic book super-villain.  There’s probably no winning.)

Planting a tree is an inherently optimistic act.  Planting a rare tree is optimism tinged with a bit of madness, I think! But these three favorites from the rare tree collection at Dawes each inspire a little mad optimism, I think:

I am quite partial to this Weeping Norway Spruce (Picea abies f. pendula). (Ja, vi elsker dette landet! What can I say, my Norwegian pride pops its head up in all kinds of funny little ways.) But doesn’t this tree look ready to lift up a head and chase you, like something out of the movie “Trollhunter”?

Behold the amazingly beautiful bark of the Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamillia). This specimen was added to Dawes in 1961. I love it.

We were so focused on the bark, neither my husband or I really got a good picture of the tree overall. Which is a shame, because they are pretty.  They even bloom camellia-esque white flowers during early summer. We have three at home because of the ones at Dawes, but it takes a while for the trees to mature enough for the bark to start exfoliating in this striking way, so it’s very nice to admire the bark in it’s glory and dream of what ours will hopefully look like, someday.

This gorgeous thing is a Silver Ghost lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana ‘Silver Ghost’). While some things in the rare tree collection might have been rare when they were added in, say, the 1960s, they may have since then become more readily available (like the weeping Norway spruce, for example). This lacebark was added in 1949 and finding one to buy of any size is still quite a challenge.We were lucky enough to add one to our yard 3 years ago.

Like the Japanese stewartia, the lacebark pine is on the slower-growing side and only does the exfoliating bark thing when the tree is relatively mature. It may be 10 to 20 years before the one we have starts to do anything remotely like this…remember how I mentioned that planting rare trees required a combination of optimism and madness? 😉

Luckily, it’s a shared madness!

We’ve had some odd, rough weather the past few years:  ice storms, high winds, and too much rain followed by scorching heat.  Some favorites didn’t make it.  It used to be a small grove of lacebarks, but heavy rains combined with strong winds ended up ripping several of them out right by the roots.  And especially sad to me was the loss of a mature, magical Japanese Pagoda Tree whose low, thick, strongly horizontal branches seemed to beg you to sit on them and dream for a while.


5 thoughts on “Three from the Rare Tree Collection at Dawes Arboretum

  1. Citizen says:

    pretty amazing trees guys.

  2. Eleenie says:

    Wow I love the bark on those specimens! I love trees, I think you know that already 😉 It’s a shame about the trees that you lost, do you think you replace them eventually?

    • We probably will, but with something different. It’s funny, as much as unusual trees fascinate me, there’s a point where I have to be practical, too. If the rare trees will grow for us, great. But if we can’t get them to live, time to try something new!

      • Eleenie says:

        Yeah I agree, Experimenting is all well and good but sometimes you just want a big green thing in the corner of the garden that looks good and will survive you!

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