Thursday, February 4, 2010

My botanical blunder

It comes from a place of love, of nurturing, of hope. My sister bought us a gift certificate for a tree as a house warming present 8 years ago. The Southern magnolia we carefully chose and planted was a symbol of finally setting down roots. We staked the tree because god forbid a strong wind, or heavy storm, or other force of nature should knock down the tree. When the tree outgrew it's original tie, I grabbed my favorite tool - the plastic cable tie - and once again tied it up because...well...I loved this tree and wanted to protect it. In tonight's first master gardener lesson, we learned about botany from a most engaging speaker. There is too much to pass along and it's all fantastically interesting. I would just suggest everyone take a class in botany. There was only one moment I wanted to jet from the class - when we learned about the vascular system of plants. See the cable tie in the photo above? Well, though I had no interest or experience in gardening when I planted the tree, I did have an inkling that when a cable tie indents the tree, it's time to cut it off. Don't know why I didn't. Laziness. Busyness. A subconscious fear that the tree would fall over (silly when one can compare the thickness of the tree to the thickness of that anemic wooden stake). Here's why I DO need to cut it off: The cambium layer (xylem and phloem) of the tree is a very thin ring of conductive living tissue just behind the bark. The xylem's job is to transport water from the roots, upward into all parts of the tree. It's the continuous piping throughout the tree. The phloem's job is to transport sugars and carbohydrates from the leaves downward into all parts of the tree. This is the tree's vascular tissue. So that plastic cable tie could possibly be (gulp) cutting into the very layer that is essential to the life of the tree. In addition, I don't want to damage the cambium layer because disease can get into the tree, rot the (dead) wood in the center, and cause a slow death. Let's hope this class did not come too late...
On a lighter's another tidbit you may not have known about lilies (referencing this post on lily bulb and tremella soup) It does not have petals. You know how roses have petals and the green sepals just under the petals? Well, no sepals, no petals. Lilies have tepals. Remember this, there will be a quiz at the end of March - with a prize that has not yet been determined. For real. Just decided this now.


  1. Tepals, check. I just got the cliff's notes of a botany lesson... and I'm hoping you run home to snip off that little tie. I love magnolias and can totally understand your desire to love and protect it.

  2. I think I can now be your apperentice. (lol)
    Again, the cable tie information is very useful - I wonder if that applies to all plants, as I noticed wires been used to train up trees into bonsai.
    Wonder if that can kill a tree.

    Lilies - tepals, ok I will remember that.

  3. I loved learning about xylem and phloem when I took botany. I always amaze customers at the flower shop when I whip out these names and compare them to straws. They get the idea then, lol.
    Hurry, hurry with your mag, save him!!!

  4. You're an ACE student, Wendy! I think your magnolia will be ok but you DID cut it off pronto right? Congrats on starting the master gardening course!
    Daylilies also have distinguished petals and sepals and together are called this rule changed? Btw, your soup recipe looks very interesting!

  5. If I were to mention all my blotanical blunders, I could write a book. Or a blog. HA.
    I am glad the tree wasn't damaged to badly.

  6. Oh no! I hope your magnolia is OK-it doesn't look pinched or anything, so hopefully the band is just snug and not cutting off circulation.

    I read/heard somewhere that staking should be done so as to allow a tree to move, not to keep it rigid. It's like when a baby learns to walk-they build up muscles to keep their balance by moving around v. atrophying from sitting still in the same position all the time. Of course, you provide some assistance and support so they don't just topple over, but eventually, the goal is to get them to stand on their own.

    If I remember correctly, you should provide two stakes with flexible supports to go around the trunk, and the plane of the stakes and the tree should be perpendicular to the prevailing winds. So, if you have winds coming from the north, you would put your stakes on the east and west sides of the tree and attach your flexible supports so that the tree can actually sway with the wind...I think!

    Anyway, good luck with your magnolia and glad to hear you are enjoying your class!

  7. Wendy, don't worry your magnolia will be ok. I'm quite happy to see you learning botany. Xylem, Phloem. I think you should also learn then about photosynthesis, PAR (Photosynthetally Active Radiation, normally 400nm-750nm) and stomata. It will broaden your basic botabical as well as plant physiological concepts.

    Furthermore, once you nominated me for Honesty scrap award:

    I was toomuch busy at that time due to emergency in my home to put it on my blog. Now I wanna put that award picture on my blog. Please allow me and tell me the way how can I put this on my page (I don't know its html code), so please help me. Thanks.

    Have a nice day :)

  8. Botanical blunders are made by all new gardeners. And old ones, too. LOL. I still remember one of my first and best booboos. I was repotting a house plant (asparagus fern) and when I spotted the huge white knobby things on the roots I thought" 'on no!!!! nematodes!!!!' and promptly cut them all off, congratulating myself on saving the plant from a terrible fate.

    I had been reading gardening books, you see, and had not grasped the size of root nematodes, or the unlikelihood of them being in the potting soil of an ornamental houseplant. I was of course chagrined to learn later that asparagus 'ferns' (so-called, but just another species of asparagus) have large white root knobs for water storage. Ooops. Luckily, asparagus are quite tough and they survived me.

    So don't worry. You know how it is, we often learn the most from our mistakes. Mother Nature is very forgiving. I think your magnolia tree looks fine, just as long as you snip off that zippy-tie ASAP.

  9. Meredith, the fragrance is absolutely amazing, though I'm almost happy the poor tree is stunted. I don't think I knew exactly how big it would get - it's waaay too close to my house.

    James, I read a book on training bonsai and it's so incredibly interesting. There is definitely a feeling that you're doing something not quite natural though...I'd have to fight that feeling. The book called for hanging weights on them, winding wire around them, etc.

    Lynn, you're making me doubt my masterfulness. I think he (at least on the oriental lily) the three outside "petals" are really the sepals, the the whole shebang like you mentioned are called tepals.

    Rosey, I guess we don't really know if damage is done until later though!!! eek.

    Dreamybee - I think you're right. We actually bought a decent kit to stake the tree at one point. it's probably been in my husband's trunk for the past 5 years.

    Hortist, we talked a bit about the stoma yesterday. It's totally totally fascinating. Almost gross, but totally fascinating. If you happen to check back here, I would just copy and save the photo. That's what I did. I think your tech skills are probably way better than mine - I don't know another way. Looking forward to your honest scrap!

    Lil Ned, that is soooooo hilarious. aaahhhhhh! Nematodes! I had no idea asparagus fern had thorns. I have some in a container outside that I've left out. The foliage turned yellow and just dropped with a storm. Left on it are lots of little sharp thorns.

  10. Wendy, hope your tree will still survive. But I know it is very easy for me to read this news from here he he... Nonetheless, have a blessed weeekend :-D

  11. Great note on the botany lesson - I wish I had the time (and a sitter) so I could take a master gardener class. It sure does sound fascinating - good for you for going for it! Can't think of anyone better suited for it.

    So did you cut the band off the tree?

    Does it not get terribly cold where you live? I'm pretty sure we can't grow magnolias here, but oh how beautiful they are! Great choice :o)

  12. BTW note to James..... I don't know a lot about bonsai (though that doesn't stop me from doing some very amateurish manglin, er pruning of small trees). But I do know that the wires and rock weights, etc are used only temporarily, then removed. Plants are so malleable that the wires accomplish their shape-changing magic quickly. So there is no chance of damaging the cambium layers with the wires.

  13. A master gardener class. How interesting. Good luck on your magnolia plant!

  14. Haha, i smiled a lot with your post and some comments. It really is interesting if you learn of the technical terms in botany and horticulture for the first time.

    Wendy you have just been strangulating the tree for a long time.... Dont panic it will not die like us, even if you cut the whole bark with a blade, then leave just that, it will still heal. In fact if you will not remove that tie, the vascular bundle will grow outside it until you will not be able to see the tie anymore. But it will take years for it to happen. Trees can circumvent that trap just so the food can be transported also to the roots, but of course when we already know it, we will be pained knowing how it suffered. Happy learning.

  15. oh my gosh. I have not yet cut the band off. Again, just lazy, and then the storm. And now the tree has two branches that have snapped. :( I don't know if there's any saving it now!


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