There is always something in bloom at the Arboretum! Use our Plants Library to plan a photo shoot, to choose one of the trails to walk, or learn more about the plants at the Arboretum.
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas)
As you walk up the hill from Scarborough Creek along Arboretum Drive in the early spring, you may notice a research collection of trees with small yellow flowers just below and behind the Juniper Collection. These cultivars of Cornelian Cherry Dogwood were planted to identify individuals with exceptional ornamental value (flowering, fruiting, and form) that are hearty in this climate.
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood is a multi-stemmed, small tree or shrub native to central and southern Europe and western Asia. The seeds for the research collection were obtained from native trees in Romania and Croatia. The numerous, small yellow clusters of flowers appear in late winter/early spring before the leaves emerge. The bright, cherry red fruit is olive-shaped and matures in July. In its native habitat the fruit is used for syrup and jams. The UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center supports several long-term dogwood breeding projects that are scattered around the Arboretum and research land base.
Japanese Elm (Ulmus davidiana var. japonica)
In the 20th Century Dutch Elm Disease (DED) devastated American Elms (Ulmus americana) throughout the Eastern US. To find a replacement for this common street tree, several elm species native to Asia were identified that were resistant to DED. Japanese Elm has been used extensively in breeding programs in the US, Canada, and Europe, and a number of resistant hybrids have been developed.
In 1966 a specimen of Japanese Elm was planted in the Arboretum’s Central China Collection near the end of Marsh Road. Arboretum records list this tree as a cultivar of Japanese Elm — Ulmus japonica ‘Keki.’ Current taxonomy considers Japanese Elm to be Ulmus davidiana var. japonica, and the cultivar ‘Keki’ does not appear to be a currently recognized taxon. Our specimen may well be one of the hybrids tested for resistance to DED, but then not selected for further research.
Japanese Elm makes an excellent shade tree, growing to heights of 50-80 ft. It has large, bright green leaves that are up to 4 inches long. As with a number of other elm species, the prominent leaf veins are parallel and the leaf base is asymmetrical. The wood has been used for pallets, crates, and firewood, and the tree is also used in Bonsai.
Spruce Pine (Pinus glabra)
A native of the Southeast Coastal Plain, Spruce Pine is found on moderately to poorly drained sandy soils in southern South Carolina, northern Florida, and along the Gulf Coast to Mississippi and Louisiana. A well-developed Spruce Pine specimen planted in 1965 can be seen near the Central China Collection.
Unlike many other pines, Spruce Pine is shade tolerant and may regenerate beneath a forest canopy. It can be used for pulp and rough lumber, but the wood is brittle and not particularly suitable for commercial use. It also is used as a landscape tree.
Spruce Pine can grow to heights of 80-100 ft. The straight or slightly twisted, dark green needles are 2-3 in. long and borne in fascicles of 2. The bark of young trees is smooth and gray, but develops shallow ridges and fissures on older trees. The common name reflects the resemblance of the branching pattern and bark to spruce. The cones are about 2.5 inches in diameter and have small or no prickles at the tips of the scales. The seed cones develop over a 2-year period and may remain on the tree for 3-4 years.
European Black Alder (Alnus glutinosa)
European Black Alder, a native species of Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, is also known as Common Alder or Black Alder. It has been widely planted in the U.S. and has become naturalized in many areas of eastern North America. In 2003 a European Black Alder in the Arboretum's Marsh Area was listed as a Tennessee State Champion Tree based on its girth, height, and crown. This tree subsequently died and has been removed.
European Black Alder is used for reclamation of strip mines because it grows rapidly and helps control erosion. Its nitrogen-fixing root nodules and abundant leaf litter improve soil fertility. It provides cover and a dependable food source for seed-eating birds during the winter. Alder wood has been used for timber, as fiber for paper and particle board, in joinery as solid wood or veneer, and for fuel wood.
The glossy, dark green leaves of European Black Alder are broadly ovate to obovate (broadest above the middle) in shape. The sticky leaves and twigs give rise to the species name "glutinosa." The male catkins form in the fall and persist during the winter. The female catkins develop in late winter, and the inconspicuous flowers bloom before leaf emergence. Woody cones develop during the summer with seeds being dispersed in the fall. The cones persist throughout the winter months. As with other species of alder, European Black Alder does well on wet sites such as stream banks and wetland situations, but it can also grow on drier sites where the soils are infertile.
Hollies (Ilex species)
Hollies are found throughout the world occupying a wide range of habitats. More than 780 native evergreen hollies and 30 native deciduous hollies are recognized. Although North America is not considered a major center of holly diversity, it does have 23 native hollies, with 7 present in Tennessee. Many holly cultivars have been developed and are used extensively in landscaping. Hollies have a rich history of medicinal uses, as religious symbols, and in superstitions. They are also used widely in holiday decorations. An excellent discussion of the history, use, and taxonomy of hollies can be found in Fred C. Galle's book Hollies: The Genus Ilex, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon 1997.
The Harold L. Elmore Holly Collection at the UT Arboretum contains over 200 evergreen and deciduous Holly cultivars and is recognized by the Holly Society of America as an official collection of Hollies. As part of this collection, a variety of deciduous hollies have been planted in the Arboretum's Marsh Area. Other Holly plantings are found along Valley Drive and Shade Tree Lane. Our native American Holly (Ilex opaca) is present in the forest understory throughout the Arboretum and can be seen along many of our trails.
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No collecting of plant materials is permitted at the UT Arboretum.