Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Here's the first dogwood (Cornus florida) flower that I saw this spring. Flower bud, I should say. What look like petals here are actually bracts, modified leaves. The inconspicuous flowers come out of the green buds in the center.

The flowering dogwood is native to the eastern United States and Mexico. Here's a white flowering dogwood with fully grown bracts.

This pink dogwood is in bloom. Notice the tiny yellow flowers in the center.

Cornus florida has a reputation for becoming gnarly and mangled as it matures.

Here's a flowering dogwood in the early fall.

The clusters of fruit ripen by late summer or early fall.

The flowering dogwood is one of my favorite trees in winter. I love the way the twigs hold the snow.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

passion flower

I've seen stone flowers and plants adorning headstones, but this is the first passion flower I've seen.

The passion flower has been used as a symbol of the passion of Christ since the 16th century. Spanish conquistadors, perhaps in an effort to convert South American indigenous peoples to Catholicism, named the flower and used its parts to tell the story of the death of Christ. The petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles, the five anthers represent the five wounds, and the three stigmas represent the three nails. The flower also has a corona of thin lobes (although not carved here) that represent the crown of thorns.

The passion flower vine climbs up the cross, the ultimate symbol of the passion.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Southern Magnolia

Until last year, I thought the southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) was the only kind of magnolia tree. (I'm from the D.C. area.) I've since discovered the saucer magnolia, the bigleaf magnolia, and the cucumber magnolia, among other species, but the southern magnolia is especially dear to me. It's native to the southeastern United States. So far, they seem to be doing well up here too. (Okay, the growth isn't quite as vigorous as it would be down south.) If you haven't noticed a southern magnolia in winter, the waxy coating on the leaves might give you a hint that it's evergreen. Right now the southern magnolias are blooming. The flowers give off a strong citrusy fragrance.

Inside this flower, there were at least three honey bees. Here, a forager is heading back to the hive. Check out the pollen on her legs.

All of our southern magnolias are relatively young. You can find most of them in the south section near Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Some family plots have staircases going up from the road. They serve a purpose, especially when the grade is steep, but some of them are also decorative and seem to be an extra opportunity to embellish the family plot. Here is one of my favorites.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Click on the photo to make it bigger. Between the pond and the buildings, there are hedgerows of privet, newly trimmed. I only started to appreciate the privet (Ligustrum) after I saw it like this from a distance.

It's also nice up close when it's in flower.

These panicles of fragrant white flowers are reminiscent of lilac.

Here's another view of the hedgerow in winter. Click to see.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

To Weep or Not to Weep: Tales of Grafts Gone Bad, Part 3

I would say this is the end of the story of the cherry tree with two habits, but I have a feeling that it will eventually be cut down. That was the idea, I believe, when the grounds crew was sent to work on this tree. Instead of giving up on it, they cut out the root stock sport (which had almost completely taken over), and left the weeping limbs. It looks like a bad perm. Maybe it will fill in and look better in a few years. But probably not.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

a look back at winter cool you down on this hot day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


If in the past couple of weeks you've been walking down the street (or through the cemetery) and have been struck by a pleasant scent, you've probably walked by a linden tree.

Under the leaves, you can see clusters of whitish flowers suspended from long pale-green bracts.

Once the flowers turn into fruit (small fuzzy balls), the bracts aid in seed distribution.

The fragrant flowers are used to make linden flower tea, the very infusion that sparked an awakening in the narrator of Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu: "Soon, depressed by the gloomy day and the promise of more like it to come, I took a mechanical sip at a spoonful of tea with a piece of the cake soaked in it. But at the very moment when the sip of tea and cake-crumbs touched my palate, a thrill ran through me and I immediately focused my attention on something strange happening inside me. I had been suddenly singled out and filled with a sweet feeling of joy, although I had no inkling of where it had come from. The joy had instantly made me indifferent to the vicissitudes of life, inoculated me against any setback it might have in store and shown me that its brevity was an irrelevant illusion; it had acted on me as love acts, filling me with a precious essence--or rather, the essence was not put into me, it was me, I was it."

The genus Tilia takes its name from a word meaning flexible or lithe. The wood is easy to work and is used for guitars and wooden blinds.

There are about 30 species of linden trees.

Green-Wood's collection includes at least five different linden species.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010


The mulberries are in fruit.

Here's fruit from the weeping mulberries.

-the weeping mulberries during a snowstorm this past winter-

And here are some white mulberries. White mulberry leaves are a silkworm's preferred food. This is a cultivated variety; in the wild, white mulberry (Morus alba) fruit is actually dark red or purple. (Forget about science--it's because of Pyramus and Thisbe, ancient Rome's Romeo and Juliet.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Norway Maple

The Norway maple (Acer platanoides) is not one of Green-Wood's most prized trees. For one thing, it's an invasive species, and although my beloved weeping willow and Amur cork tree are as well, this spring I could see why the Norway maple is on the list. Before spring mowing started, the lawn within fifty feet of each Norway maple (and beyond) was covered with seedlings. Green-Wood would quickly become a Norway maple forest if the mowing operations were ever halted. With a canopy that creates heavy shade and roots that secrete chemicals preventing the growth of other plants, the Norway maple has the ability to completely dominate a forest. Mowing isn't going to stop, however, and as the cemetery isn't bordering any forests or uncultivated green spaces, it isn't posing a risk to our native flora in that way. This maple species, although it's able to survive in extreme conditions, does pose other problems for a garden environment: it has a structure that tends to break easily. Each time we have a big storm, there's surely a Norway maple down or damaged, and over the years, the ones that remain look gangly. But Norway maples do have their moments. Here, at the end of April, they were still leafing out.

They are also delightful in flower. Flowering happens before any leaves appear and before most any other species has leafed out, giving the landscape an early touch of color.

These groupings of greenish flowers dot the canopy. Above, flowers in full bloom; below, flowers not yet opened.