Stewartia pseudocamellia or not?

morganhillApril 22, 2014

I purchased what I thought was a Stewartia pseudocamellia from a nursery in Oregon last November. Before the tree leafed out, it looked like a typical multi-stem Stewartia of 3- to 4-inch caliper (sinuous, muscular, exfoliating branches rising upward and outward from the center of the tree). Once it leafed out, however, it looked like no Stewartia I�ve ever seen. The leaves are as large as 7-inches long by 7-inches wide, and the larger ones are more circular than oval. Not only that, but the flowers, which appeared shortly before the tree was fully in leaf, are atypical for a Stewartia: instead of a single flower per inflorescence, there are multiple flowers. I�d be most grateful if someone could identify this strange tree (see photo).

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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Kind of like a Styrax but it's hard to tell for sure.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:12AM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

It looks like a Styrax obassia just like I have.
Mike

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:34AM
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morganhill

Thanks, David and Mike, for your timely and right-on replies. As it happens, I ordered a Styrax obassia and a Parrotia persica as well as a Stewartia pseudocamellia and several Japanese maples from the same nursery in Oregon. It seems that the labels on the Stewartia and the Styrax were switched or attached incorrectly. It had occurred to me that the leaves on what I thought was the Stewartia were like those on a Styrax obassia (large, roundish, flat, and rough textured) and those on what I thought was the Styrax like those on a Stewartia (smallish, oval, shallow V-shaped, and smooth textured). It had also occurred to me that the flowers on the former were like those on the latter, and vice versa. But the winter aspect of the Styrax âÂÂStewartiaâ was so extraordinarily like that of a real Stewartia and so unlike that of a Styrax obassia, as I understood it based on photos in the internet, that I rejected the notion that theyâÂÂd been mislabeled. Attached is a photo of the Stewartia âÂÂStyrax,â which but for its leaves and flowers looks to me more like a Styrax obassia than a Stewartia.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 3:22PM
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gardengal48

Last photo has the very characteristic of Stewartia zigzag twig pattern, in addition to a much lighter, more delicate foliage display. I wouldn't for a second confuse this tree - even at a distance in a photo - as a Styrax rather than a Stewartia.

FWIW, most stewartias take significant time before they begin to develop that camouflaged bark effect. But that twig pattern is evident even when very small, young trees.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 2:44PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I wouldn't confuse them either. They do have the same color bark when young though, but the branching pattern is way different. So is the trunk. Styrax obassia has a 'wavy' trunk and branches where the Stewartia is usually straight.
I had a large Styrax obassia, but cut it down when it got too big for where it was at. Plus the fact the Fall color was a so-so yellow and brown. Here's a seedling from that original tree I had.


It also got away from me and will eventually be cut down. I call it 'editing'.
Mike

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 6:16PM
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morganhill

In the foreground of the photo below is the Styrax âÂÂStewartiaâ before it leafed out (the Stewartia âÂÂStyraxâ is in the background, beyond the Parrotia). With its sinuous, outward and upward arching branches, it looks no different to me than the out-of-leaf multi-stem Stewartias of 3- to 4-inch caliper IâÂÂve seen in nurseries, gardens, and photos. Rather than criss-cross, IâÂÂd describe the StewartiaâÂÂs branching pattern as outwardly and upwardly arching, with a layered, horizontal aspect, especially apparent in older trees. IâÂÂd use the same description for the Styrax obassia, now that I know first-hand what it looks like. When it comes to possessing a criss-cross branching pattern, few trees IâÂÂve seen surpass the Parrotia, with its mass of densely crossing branches.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 11:54PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Both look typical in your pictures to me also. Except the stewartia looks like it needs to be fertilized.

Both will get much larger than they are now, already the weeping laceleaf maple looks like it is being upstaged and will actually be physically overwhelmed in future if some "editing" is not undertaken.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 7:11PM
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morganhill

Thanks, bboy. IâÂÂd noticed that the StewartiaâÂÂs leaves look somewhat chlorotic, but IâÂÂd ascribed that to their being new growth rather than to chlorosis or problems with the roots. (The tree went into leaf in late January or early February due to the exceptionally mild winter here in the San Jose area.) IâÂÂll spray the leaves with an iron solution and see if that makes a difference; then, if it does, IâÂÂll attempt to lower the pH of the soil with applications of sulfur (I know Stewartias do best in acidic - pH 4.5 to 6.5 - soil).

As to âÂÂediting,â I donâÂÂt want a mannered garden, but rather a mini exotic tree jungle, with the trees and bushes blending into each other.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 10:27PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The larger specimen is going to eat the weeping maple, not blend with it. I'm not talking about a dense yet otherwise coordinated planting scheme that fits within the clearly defined space you have there, I'm talking about the existing trees overwhelming the area and growing well beyond it. Any one of the trees you already have there is quite capable of filling the bed and growing well beyond its borders, just by itself.

Unless stunted the one in the last picture will be on top of the maple, over the edging and beyond the fence in not that many years. Especially when you do not have much room it is a good idea to go and look at trees in nearby labeled collections of some vintage to see in person just what they are programmed to turn into over time. Nothing like standing underneath a tree and gazing up into to get a full appreciation for how big another example of the same kind is liable to get.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:56AM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

Besides not having good fall color and growing really big and fast, the Styrax obassia had leaves as big as a page in a telephone book. When they fell, they swamped the groundcovers beneath it. The blooms were sparse, but you may have a lot more with the sun you get in San Jose. You could get by for a few years with judicious pruning, but soon the area will get completely overgrown above and beyond the canopy you're trying to achieve. I would think the Styrax japonica would be more in scale for that area.
The Japanese weeping maple needs to be moved to another area entirely. It has no chance where it is, as bboy pointed out.
I prefer the Stewartia monodelpha over the pseudocamellia. It has smaller leaves and better fall color.
Parrotias eventually get large also. Here's one of mine that's around 20 years old. Just about right at 20 for what you want. I have removed a lot of branches over the years, mostly lower ones and those that cross. I have more to do as you can see. The wood is hard and tough sawing. Prune them when small if possible.

I like what you're trying to do. It's better than a lot of designs I've seen. Please take my advice with a good attitude as that's the way I've meant it.
Mike

Here is a link that might be useful: My garden pictures

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:27AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Examples of all except the maple in the neighborhood of 50 ft. tall (or more) have been known from western Washington. Of course, the bigger ones are decades old, and growth of any one of these in San Jose might be less vigorous than on good sites up here.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:35PM
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morganhill

Thanks, bboy and Mike, for your thoughtful comments. My planning for this garden was based on what IâÂÂve read about the trees in question in Michael DirrâÂÂs writings and elsewhere, on my desire to have certain trees IâÂÂve long admired (the Stewartia, Parrotia, and Styrax), on my fondness for Japanese maples, and on what I could get. I know that with age and the right environment the S.p., P.p., and S.o. can all outgrow the space I have for them (though I wouldnâÂÂt mind if they each reached 30 feet or so in my lifetime). I think youâÂÂre right about the S.o.âÂÂs overwhelming the weeping maple, an Acer palmatum âÂÂOrangeolaâÂÂ. Moreover, I think the same is true of the P.p.âÂÂs overwhelming the two upright Japanese maples, each an Acer palmatum âÂÂOrange FlameâÂÂ, planted immediately behind it, as well as the S.p.âÂÂs overwhelming the J.m., an Acer palmatum âÂÂRed SpyderâÂÂ, immediately behind it (assuming IâÂÂm able to remedy the S.pâÂÂs apparent chlorosis). It looks like IâÂÂm going to need some strong hands this fall to transplant the four trees (as well as two similarly sized trees I have in planters in the front of the house). It also looks like IâÂÂm going to have to give serious thought to where, on this small property, I should plant all the trees!

Your garden is spectacular, Mike, as is its natural habitat. It achieves the kind of effect IâÂÂm seeking, but on a vastly larger scale.

HereâÂÂs a quick question: The P.p. has been slow to come into leaf and has done so irregularly, with well developed leaves on some branches and no leaves or few leaves on others as of today (see photo below). I planted the tree in a large but unamended hole in late December. It wasnâÂÂt until late March that it dropped the last of its leaves (with a little help from me). Each of the trees but the P.p. began to come into leaf in early to mid February, and each is now fully in leaf. The unleafed or partially leafed branches are as limber as the fully leafed ones are and display the same dark green cambium layer when scratched. Should I be concerned about the P.p.âÂÂs losing some or all the unleafed or partially leafed branches?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:27PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Weeping laceleaf maples are so abnormal in structure - and therefore, character - that these are often best displayed on their own, in a small courtyard or other enclosed or otherwise visually isolated setting.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:39PM
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morganhill

IâÂÂm thinking of moving the Acer palmatum dissectum âÂÂOrangelolaâ to the middle of the fence at the far end of the yard, as seen in the photo below, and about three feet in front of it. This will give it a degree of isolation and make it a focal point in the garden. To the right of it in the photo, IâÂÂm considering planting one of the two Acer palmatum dissectum âÂÂViridisâ JMs I now have in planters. The orange leafs of the âÂÂOrangelaâ should contrast nicely with the dark green leafs of the âÂÂViridisâÂÂ, and the placement of the two A.p.d.âÂÂs should be harmonious with the placement of the two Acer japonicum âÂÂGreen Cascadeâ JMâÂÂs IâÂÂve planted along the back of the house. I know thatâÂÂs a lot of trees for such a small space, but judicious pruning of the A.p.d.âÂÂs and A.j.âÂÂs should make work.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 10:09PM
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