This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Trees of U-M's original botanical garden

From 1913 until 1960, the University of Michigan's botanical gardens were located one block east of the corner of E Stadium and S Industrial, on property that is now Woodbury Gardens apartments. At the time of the move to Dixboro Rd, many of the important specimen trees were moved, but there remain a handful of unusual large trees worth visiting.

Entering Woodbury Dr you'll pass a row of white poplars to the left and a grove of siberian elms to the right. The first street on the left is unmarked but shows on maps as being Wisteria Dr. At the point where Wisteria takes a sharp right turn, several large healthy persimmon trees can be found to the left. I can't figure why this species is so uncommon in cultivation -- perhaps it is the 'mess' created by the small edible fruit. However, it's a dioecious species and one can select non-fruiting male specimens. The tree has a very attractive form and a stunning bark pattern. No fruit on these trees on Wisteria -- they are either male, or it was an unproductive year. Diospyros virginiana is native to the southern states.

Back to Woodbury Dr: the two pecan trees on the east side of the street just beyond Wisteria are just stunning.  Pecan (Carya illinoiensis) is in the same genus as the hickories, but the leaves more closely resemble those of walnut. I know of only one Ann Arborite who has a pecan in her yard. She says the flowers make a mess in the spring, the squirrels go ga-ga over the fruit, and maybe she mentioned it stains her deck. I could live with those things. It's definitely a beautiful nut tree.

The odd hickory growing between the pecans is curious-looking but admittedly not very beautiful. Rumor has it that it is Carya laciniosa, shellbark hickory, a species recognizable in part by its exceptionally large nuts and large winter buds. reports that it grows on river banks and in rich floodplain forests in the counties to the south, east and west of us, but not in Washtenaw County itself.

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