August 30, 2012

The Beautiful Blue Marble Tree

Blue Marble Tree seeds

I have a rare and delightful job as a horticulturist in a public garden, in which I can grow a great many species of plants. I can also experiment with new species, trialing them for planting in the local area. One such experiment has been modestly successful so far, with the Blue Marble Tree. This majestic tree has a lot of good qualities as a large  tree, but only the coming years will show if has longevity, sturdiness and the other attributes which make a good "landscape" tree versus a specimen for a garden or street tree. 

Blue Marble Tree flowers

The botanical name for this tree is Elaeocarpus grandis, one of dozens of species in the genus, all of which are tropical or subtropical, all are Old World, most are from from Asia and the Indo-China area. One other species, E. decipiens, The Japanese Blueberry Tree, is a bit more common in the landscape trade in Florida where it shows a lot of promise as a street or courtyard tree. It is of modest size, has a well-rounded crown and seems trouble-free after about 15 years in cultivation in Florida and other states. 

Marble Tree foliage;
older leaves turn scarlet
   For the larger E. grandis, the tree will easily grow to 50 feet or more, and has both brilliant red senescing leaves as well as deep green foliage, set against a very dark straight trunk. The trees are fairly hard to come by, but are worth the cost and time to locate them. We are fortunate to have gotten some seed from a tree I planted here in 2005 and the seedlings are already 7 feet tall after 18 months. I look forward to planting them in the Gardens as well as other parks in Pinecrest next Spring. The trees are undemanding in their culture, but do like regular watering and plenty of sunlight. The seeds are fickle regarding germination; they can take 4-12 months to sprout even with  bottom heat and scarifying the seeds.

There are hundreds of tree species available for planting in this area of the country, and I hope to some day see a few dozen Blue Marble Trees dominating the treescape, their canopies stretching up and over their competitors. The effect would be compelling; the foliage and stature of the tree merit a closer look at planting them in parks. Their very tall growth precludes their use as a street tree in the event of a storm, they would eclipse an entire road. The next decade holds exciting new introductions for this area. Consider a Blue Marble Tree for your garden if space and climate permit planting one. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens    

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