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Silas_Sancona

The allure, ..of Bark

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Silas_Sancona

While a subject not often discussed, the often overlooked coloration or patterning on some of the trees in the landscape, is something that can enhance the visual experience.  Most people are already familiar with things like Crape Myrtle, or, specifically in cooler areas, trees like Birch ( Betulus ), a few Maple ( Acer ), and/or trees in the Prunus family which, aside from flowers, and/or interesting foliage, may also add colored bark to their appeal. In drier areas of sub-tropics, some might assume there aren't all that many options to add to the garden which possess such appeal.

Most die hard plant geeks already know Rainbow Eucalyptus, a stunning tropical Euc. species from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Attractive as it is, this species can become a bit big for smaller yards. It, like some other Eucalyptus species, can also suffer damage during heavy storm events a bit easier than some trees with stronger wood..  Other trees with attention getting bark, like Gumbo Limbo, Bursera simarubra haven't yet been grown widely enough to test full tolerance to cold, and/or wetter winter soil conditions, particularly in California. Palo Verde ( Cercidium/ Parkinsonia ), a very popular option here in the desert, are beautiful but can also suffer catastrophic damage during storms if not grown " hard " and pruned incorrectly/ hap-hazardly, which happens too often here. Both may also get too big for a smaller yard and some people swear they suffer allergic reactions when Palo Verde flower. ( A myth btw, Pollen produced by these trees is too heavy to be dispersed by wind.. only moved from flower to flower by insects )

 Aside from those options.. what other options are there for adding something with interesting colored or textured bark, especially if you have a smaller yard, need something that won't break your water budget ( or you / your house ) but looks good, and ISN'T a Crape Myrtle, and can be found relatively easily, or a little effort?

Here are some of my favorite options.. There are some others for us in the Desert, and/or pretty much any frost free/ nearly frost free parts of California, Southern Texas or Florida.. if you're feeling adventurous, which i'll cover in a future thread.

Legume- family trees:

**Baja** Palo Blanco, Lysiloma candida.. Central/ Southern Baja, possibly found in a few areas on mainland Sonora, Mexico. Still rather rare in cultivation atm, but a couple nurseries in CA. have started to grow/offer it recently.. Generally narrow and upright growth form, to about 25ft in height, on average.  Ferny, tropical-looking foliage + starkly white bark, -w/ some blackish/ Grayish inclusions- makes this extremely drought and heat tolerant tree one of two or 3 great stand -ins for Birch in dry areas.. A potentially spectacular option for up lighting at night. 9B. Flowers, seed pods normally not a big debris issue, look like any of the Puff-ball flowered Acacia, Albizia. 
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** Sonoran** Palo Blanco, Mariosousa williardiana.. **Formally Acacia willardiana** Occasional in Baja, mostly encountered in Sonora, down into Sinaloa.. Extremely drought/ heat tolerant w/ decent cold tolerance ( Has survived in 9A areas, when more mature ) Unlike the above species of "Palo Blanco",  a common name that is also used for numerous other, and completely different trees, the " Sonoran"-type can be found growing on some of the hottest and driest gravel plains in Sonora. While young trees look rather wispy in the landscape, with time, and some a couple deep soakings during the summer, ( mimicking when they receive most of their moisture in habitat ) this tree becomes one of the nicest options for hot dry areas. Form is upright, but slightly weeping, to roughly 20ft in height, on average. Foliage has a weepy, willowy look as well.  At certain times of the year, rough looking, papery mark sheds itself in sheets or sections revealing smooth white or whitish blue colored trunks. As the bark is shed, it can present colors of brown, gold, red and Orange, or Blue-ish Gray, and tones of Pink.. Flowers look like puffy white bottle brushes. Seed is a papery pod like Albizia.. Both aspects can be a little messy but normally isn't much of an issue. Great tree for limited space/ a courtyard. Was the "desert tree" that introduced me to plants from Sonora, Mexico/ brought me to Phoenix.
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Arizona / Texas Kidneywood, Eysanhardtia orthocarpa/ texana Similar looking species/ trees, with generally the same habits/requirements. Like a little more moisture than the previous two trees, but can take some drought. Both present nice, tropical looking, ferny foliage and typically stay around 15-20ft in height. Flowers are fragrant enough that the strong Cinnamon/Vanilla scent can be detected from a distance on warm evenings. Very attractive to a diverse amount of pollinators as well. While the old bark on this species doesn't shed to reveal a smooth underside, patterning of it is interesting enough.  Another good option for smaller spaces. Zone 9 Trial worthy, and has survived winters in 8B. Texas sp. may be even hardier. Seeds are tiny and never create a litter issue.
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Chilean Palo Verde, Geofforea decorticans Another legume-type tree high up on the attractive-bark level scale. This rather uncommon and tough South American Native tolerates just about anything the low desert can throw at it. Unlike most Legumes, this species forms pods which look like small round fruit rather than a pod full of seeds. Once processed, the outer, mealy cover of the seeds is edible and used as a syrup substitute in Chile and other regions of South American where it is native. While not the best pictures, have posted others that really show off all the colors in the bark here a few times in the past. Can sucker if given lots of water and the fruit can be somewhat of a nuisance when produced abundantly some years.
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A few other Acacias, and 3 Albizia sp. ( 2 from Africa, 1 from Mexico ), and a few Mexican/ South American Caesalpinia species options for attractive bark as well..


Unlike the last 3 options, the next 3 will remain fully evergreen through the winter.


Texas Persimmon, Diospyros texana From a distance, this small-ish Texas native might look like a Crape Myrtle to some people. Up close, especially when flowering or full of fruit, it is one of the more unique trees on my personal list. Not too big, and takes heat/ drought pretty well. Provides habitat for animals, food for pollinators, the birds/other critters, and people. Fruit, generally produced late summer and Fall on female trees ( Species is Dioecious, Need both male/female to produce fruit ) is quite sweet and different ( and smaller ) from traditional Persimmons. Adding to both the overall look of the tree, and tasty, edible fruit is some very attention getting bark. As older bark is shed, the new bark beneath is a swirly/ marble stone-like pattern of White, Gray, Light Brown, and/or Pinkish Tones.. with interesting " Branding Marks" ..as though someone took a hot piece of metal and carefully went up and down each trunk/ large branch and carefully pressed against it.. leaving a mark, but not damaging the tree. Some populations can go partially deciduous in colder areas but most stay evergreen. Said to be hardy to zone 8 but trial-worthy in 7B, maybe lower.  Said to bear fruit when 5-7 years old from seed.

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Other, more exotic options with interesting looking bark, and edible Fruit?  Jaboticaba, Cherry of the Rio Grande, Guava, Strawberry/Lemon Guava.. Allspice, Both Bay and Lemon Bay Rum.  Allspice itself has done well in California. Other two Pimenta sp. haven't been trialed enough out there yet to know how well they might tolerate frosts/ freezing temperatures in California, S. Cal. specifically. All options above can be grown in containers however.


Ghost Gum, Corymbia paupana.. Whether or not the species offered locally, and out in California, is indeed the " True " Ghost from far Northern Australia / Papua New Guinea, or another, similar looking species from a colder area of Oz also sold as "Ghost Gum", this is my top, non-flowery Eucalyptus/Corymbia choice for smaller yards, landscapes in general.. Even the largest specimens i have seen around town really aren't that big compared to the many other Euc. species that have been planted here. Would say the largest i have seen here -so far- max out at about 25-30ft This species is also said to produce stronger wood, compared to other Eucs and will not be as sensitive to damage from wind, at least here/ in CA. Not sure if the species has been tried in more high-wind prone parts of the country, so no idea how this sp. would do in a Hurricane.  If it is the true species, "guaranteed" hardiness will extend to 9B, If it is " ...the more cold tolerant, " hardiness may extend to somewhere in zone 8. As you can see in the pictures, Weepy/ willowly looking foliage, growth form + Blue-ish, Sea Green toned foliage, and that starkly white smooth bark are sure to capture almost anyone's attention. Another great option for up lighting as well.. While most Eucs. do like some moisture, this is one that can take drought and heat well.
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While many might consider the last option on this list to be something you might see in more temperate areas, This might be one of the toughest Conifers out there.. At least when surviving extreme heat/ drought might be considered. At the same time, the color of the foliage has made it a " must have" option in other, less hot/dry parts of the country.  Adding to the spectacular color ( of the foliage ) in selected forms, the bark is outstanding, esp. on a group of specimens i recently came across in a local park. It is also thought to be the " grandfather " of at least two rare species in California.

Arizona Smooth Cypress, Cupressus arizonica var. glabra/ Cupressus glabra. Of all the things one would think could be included in a subtropical- themed landscape, don't think many would consider a Cypress, especially somewhere extremely hot and dry..  Yea you see Monterey Cypress and various subtropical stuff mixed together in landscapes in parts of  California but it is also generally cooler there..  Here, that same species won't survive. Don't think it will tolerate the humidity of the Southeastern States either. Several cutting propagated selections of this Cupressus species have become quite popular well outside the species narrow range which includes Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, just below the Mogollon Rim north of Phoenix, ...and scattered populations in Southeastern AZ / Adjacent parts of the Sierra Madre in Mexico,.. possibly native to parts of New Mexico and Texas as well. It is often confused with a sister species of the same name whose bark does not shed.

Species itself can be variable in form, ranging from short, tight, and upright, to irregular and somewhat weeping. As mentioned, this variety of Arizona Cypress is likely the grandparent to the extremely rare, Cuyamaca Cypress, Cupressus stephensonii native to a small area in the mountains east of San Diego which has recently started to be grown for sale in some nurseries, and shares the same bark shedding traits w/ two other, somewhat rare Cupress sp. in southern CA / Baja:  Tecate Cypress, Cupressus forbesii and Guadalupe Cypress, Cupressus guadalupensis ..which, like many other endemics from the same island, were nearly wiped out by Goats / other introduced herbivores. Now that the island is free of these animals, these Cypress,  ..and the just as endangered Guadalupe island. Pine, and Palm ( Brahea edulis ) are beginning to recover.  Side by side, both the Species seen in AZ, and Cuyamaca Cypress would look identical  ( similar foliage color/growth pattern/ peeling /colored new bark ).  Tecate and Guadalupe Cypress tend to have greener foliage.

While the Icy blue foliage was attractive enough to gain popularity world- wide, that aspect is only up-staged by newly revealed and smooth bark.  Have seen other specimens, though none as colorful as these in the 2nd group ( Pics # 3-9 ).. While the deep, warm Cherry Red tone is common, don't recall the additions of Pink / Blue-ish tones, Green and Gold in specimens i'd seen in the past. Pretty neat. Can think of some super silver or blue colored Yucca, Cacti, Palms / Cycads that would look good situated near these.  Bark colors kind of gives Rainbow Euc. a run for their money, imo.  and much easier to grow than our native/ Texas Madrone.

Interesting that this Desert Mountain dweller can grow in a hot, often drought plagued landscape alongside Cacti, Yucca, and Agave, and  apparently thrives in the Southeast US alongside lusher, more tropical looking plants, and Azalea. Not even most Manzanita ( Arctostyphalos ), Mission Manzanita ( Xylococcus ), or the super rare Baja Bird Bush ( Orinthostaphylos ) can be grown in such far flung places. For the most part, most species in the 3 Genus mentioned above are restricted to California Landscapes. All also are options for attractively colored bark as well..

Large and more irregular/ weepy specimen. ( Near Ray/ AZ. AVE. Chandler, AZ )
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Short, tight, and upright specimens ( Desert Breeze Park, Chandler AZ. )
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Enjoy.....

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Darold Petty

Nathan, you are an great resource of horticultural knowledge.  Even though I will never plant any of these trees I really enjoyed your extensive and detailed post.  :greenthumb:

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Peter

Great thread Nathan!

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Chester B

Great thread, I'll add in a few more cold hardy trees.  Not my photos.

Stewartia psuedocamellia - zones 5-8, 20-40 feet

Stewartia pseudocamellia | Japanese stewartia | Stewartia tree, Plants,  Trees to plant

 

Paperbark maple - Acer griseum - zones 4-8,  15-25 feet

Acer griseum | Small trees for garden, Ornamental trees, Trees and shrubs

 

Crimson frost birch - Betula platyphylla var. szechuanica X Betula pendula ‘Purpurea’-  white bark with purple leaves, these look great paired with blue spruce in colder climates.  Zones 4-7, 25-40 feet

crimson frost birch tree | Planten, Tuin, Vaste planten

 

 

 

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Silas_Sancona
21 minutes ago, Chester B said:

Great thread, I'll add in a few more cold hardy trees.  Not my photos.

Stewartia psuedocamellia - zones 5-8, 20-40 feet

Stewartia pseudocamellia | Japanese stewartia | Stewartia tree, Plants,  Trees to plant

 

Paperbark maple - Acer griseum - zones 4-8,  15-25 feet

Acer griseum | Small trees for garden, Ornamental trees, Trees and shrubs

 

 

 


Stewartia are great, small trees.. Have heard at least a few of the Korean species are more heat/ drought tolerant than Japanese sp.  Would be one to try in coolish coastal/ near coastal parts of zone 9.. Maybe zone 10 under high shifting shade-type canopy, on say the north side of a house where you might be able to grow Hydrangea/ other stuff that likes a similar environment. Fall color might be much more subdued than in cooler areas though. 

Funny how PaperBark Maple reminds me of Bursera sp. in the Gumbo Limbo ( Bursera simarubra ) section of the family.  Have heard there are a few specimens in gardens in the San Francisco/Berkley area.. Wonder if Huntington has one in their Japanese Garden.

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Chester B

Paperbark Maples are so overused in my neighborhood, that along with Japanese maples and Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa).  I think the paperbark maples are pretty adaptable, and I find the bigger they are the better they look.

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Silas_Sancona
6 minutes ago, Chester B said:

Paperbark Maples are so overused in my neighborhood, that along with Japanese maples and Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa).  I think the paperbark maples are pretty adaptable, and I find the bigger they are the better they look.

I remember when stuff like White Birch, Japanese Maples, and London Plane Trees were sold in every nursery back in San Jose.. Then, say sometime in the 90's, the Birch started dying off/ be attacked by bark beetles, and any Japanese Maples exposed to sun would look awful/ suffer serious sunburn by August/September..  You'll still find both in nurseries, but nowhere near as promoted.  Many neighborhoods that planted nothing but London Plane trees are now regretting that street tree choice also. Seeing stuff like Quercus englemanii/ oblangifolia, both from hot/dry parts of CA./AZ., being trialed in parts of the Bay Area recently.

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Chester B
1 hour ago, Silas_Sancona said:

I remember when stuff like White Birch, Japanese Maples, and London Plane Trees were sold in every nursery back in San Jose.. Then, say sometime in the 90's, the Birch started dying off/ be attacked by bark beetles, and any Japanese Maples exposed to sun would look awful/ suffer serious sunburn by August/September..  You'll still find both in nurseries, but nowhere near as promoted.  Many neighborhoods that planted nothing but London Plane trees are now regretting that street tree choice also. Seeing stuff like Quercus englemanii/ oblangifolia, both from hot/dry parts of CA./AZ., being trialed in parts of the Bay Area recently.

I don't understand why they try and push trees like that in the west makes no sense.  To be honest I think birch trees are garbage, coming from Canada they are so overplanted.  Weak, messy, disease prone and short lived it's not a tree I'd ever plant.

The city of Portland has a recommended list of Broad leaf evergreen trees and most of them are oaks from the west.  Querces hypoleucoides "Silver leaf oak" I know is a favorite of some of the specialty nurseries around here. 

In my neighborhood/HOA we have 160 homes and when they were built all the street trees were either Red maple, Sweetgum and a type of Hawthorne.  Needless to say 25 years later the only ones that have been suitable long term are the Hawthornes.  Maples look like crap by August as its too hot and dry, plus they destroy the sidewalks.  The Sweetgums also cause damage and have those terrible spiky balls that litter the sidewalks.  So out of the roughly 350 street trees that were planted only a handful are left.  I am working on a new list of trees for the HOA that can do well in our summer conditions in very narrow parking strips.

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Peter

I've only seen  Acacia willardiana in California at the LA Arboretum, and I've never seen that Geofforea decorticans.  I tried looking for it with no luck a couple years ago-is it available in Arizona?  Has anyone grown it in Southern California?  Looks like a great plant if it can take semi desert conditions.

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Silas_Sancona
4 minutes ago, Chester B said:

I don't understand why they try and push trees like that in the west makes no sense.  To be honest I think birch trees are garbage, coming from Canada they are so overplanted.  Weak, messy, disease prone and short lived it's not a tree I'd ever plant.

The city of Portland has a recommended list of Broad leaf evergreen trees and most of them are oaks from the west.  Querces hypoleucoides "Silver leaf oak" I know is a favorite of some of the specialty nurseries around here. 

In my neighborhood/HOA we have 160 homes and when they were built all the street trees were either Red maple, Sweetgum and a type of Hawthorne.  Needless to say 25 years later the only ones that have been suitable long term are the Hawthornes.  Maples look like crap by August as its too hot and dry, plus they destroy the sidewalks.  The Sweetgums also cause damage and have those terrible spiky balls that litter the sidewalks.  So out of the roughly 350 street trees that were planted only a handful are left.  I am working on a new list of trees for the HOA that can do well in our summer conditions in very narrow parking strips.

Agree completely.. Even back then, i couldn't comprehend why everyone wanted to promote stuff like Japanese maples, Plane tree, Birch, Evergreen Ash, eck!, lol.. and other stuff like Azaleas and Camelias.. which can be a 50/50 gamble there. I remember getting the side eye when suggesting bringing in stuff like Tabebuia and Gold Medallion Tree ( Cassia leptophylla ) when i worked for a nursery.. Yet, go over to much cooler ( compared to San Jose ) Capitola, located just south of Santa Cruz, right on the coast, and there were ( still are ) big and healthy Gold Medallion lining a section of Capitola Ave.. Then came to discover someone at the Catholic Church i attended growing up much closer to home had planted a couple, and they were thriving. The Tab ( Handroanthus now ) Impetiginosa i'd installed for my mom's neighbor at the time, are doing fine. Weren't killed by a cold winter like the person i'd purchased them from suggested they might.  Growing up, every street tree in that section of my neighborhood there in San Jose was all Sweet Gum, or about 90% of what you'd see.. Little by little they've been dying off/removed and what a mess when storms would tear out sections of some of the bigger ones.. let alone those fruit! ..and lifted sidewalks lol..  Chinese Pistache then became popular.. Better tree, yes, but thinking their days in the area are numbered too.

Have seen Hawthornes once or twice in San Jose.. Looked awful. Somewhat more common in Kansas and were messy there too ( mainly the fruit/ rusty fungus that would cover them- stains clothes ) Of course, Indian Hawthorne was a staple landscape "Shrub" before bacterial/fungal things started taking them out.

Funny how the Oak sp. you mention, among others i have read about which are being used up your way, originate either here in AZ/ NM.. or in the Sierra Madre in Mexico, yet do fine there. Wish a few more people would start growing/offering the big-leaved Quercus species, which i'm thinking would tolerate CA/ Ore. conditions that also originate in the same area of Mexico..  Never would have thought the level of diversity in Oaks would be a great as it is there.  Pretty much every leaf shape/ size you can think of. Better option for parks/ large street planters, perhaps.. but an Oak with sea Grape sized leaves isn't something you'd expect when you think of an Oak tree.

Btw, you start any of the seed i'd sent?.. No worries if you've been too busy but had been meaning to ask..

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Chester B
2 minutes ago, Silas_Sancona said:

Agree completely.. Even back then, i couldn't comprehend why everyone wanted to promote stuff like Japanese maples, Plane tree, Birch, Evergreen Ash, eck!, lol.. and other stuff like Azaleas and Camelias.. which can be a 50/50 gamble there. I remember getting the side eye when suggesting bringing in stuff like Tabebuia and Gold Medallion Tree ( Cassia leptophylla ) when i worked for a nursery.. Yet, go over to much cooler ( compared to San Jose ) Capitola, located just south of Santa Cruz, right on the coast, and there were ( still are ) big and healthy Gold Medallion lining a section of Capitola Ave.. Then came to discover someone at the Catholic Church i attended growing up much closer to home had planted a couple, and they were thriving. The Tab ( Handroanthus now ) Impetiginosa i'd installed for my mom's neighbor at the time, are doing fine. Weren't killed by a cold winter like the person i'd purchased them from suggested they might.  Growing up, every street tree in that section of my neighborhood there in San Jose was all Sweet Gum, or about 90% of what you'd see.. Little by little they've been dying off/removed and what a mess when storms would tear out sections of some of the bigger ones.. let alone those fruit! ..and lifted sidewalks lol..  Chinese Pistache then became popular.. Better tree, yes, but thinking their days in the area are numbered too.

Have seen Hawthornes once or twice in San Jose.. Looked awful. Somewhat more common in Kansas and were messy there too ( mainly the fruit/ rusty fungus that would cover them- stains clothes ) Of course, Indian Hawthorne was a staple landscape "Shrub" before bacterial/fungal things started taking them out.

Funny how the Oak sp. you mention, among others i have read about which are being used up your way, originate either here in AZ/ NM.. or in the Sierra Madre in Mexico, yet do fine there. Wish a few more people would start growing/offering the big-leaved Quercus species, which i'm thinking would tolerate CA/ Ore. conditions that also originate in the same area of Mexico..  Never would have thought the level of diversity in Oaks would be a great as it is there.  Pretty much every leaf shape/ size you can think of. Better option for parks/ large street planters, perhaps.. but an Oak with sea Grape sized leaves isn't something you'd expect when you think of an Oak tree.

Btw, you start any of the seed i'd sent?.. No worries if you've been too busy but had been meaning to ask..

Yes I did start some seed, I'm not the best at germinating...  However I do have some Luecana retusa and some texas mtn laurel growing up in my green house, that I am anxious to get in the ground but I want them to get a good size first.  I have them in treepots so lots of room for their roots.  I was able to share some of these with another plant geek who works at a specialty nursery who has been very helpful to me in the past.  Some of the other species I will be attempting soon as I have some space freeing up in my green house.   I wanted to start with the ones I knew would survive here and where I have spots I can put them.  Thanks again, I'm sure I am the only person around with these. 

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Silas_Sancona
24 minutes ago, Peter said:

I've only seen  Acacia willardiana in California at the LA Arboretum, and I've never seen that Geofforea decorticans.  I tried looking for it with no luck a couple years ago-is it available in Arizona?  Has anyone grown it in Southern California?  Looks like a great plant if it can take semi desert conditions.

There is one nursery here that lists it in their availability but not sure if they're actually growing it, or if they just don't bother to update their lists..

I've got a few seedlings but, as mentioned, healthy, but have been slow for some reason. Tree in the picture had no fruit when i'd visited back in May but normally does. Hoping it was just late to flower this year and there will be something to collect when i get back up there again now that the heat has backed off ( ..sort of, lol.. 101F forecast on the first day of Fall, 105-107F by this weekend, again -ugh!- ) Going to throw some older seed i have in pots as well.. No idea on how long the seed stays viable so this will be a learning experience for the future. 

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amh

Outstanding and very interesting post.

I know from experience that Diospyros texana can withstand prolonged temperatures above 5o F.

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