On October 9, the Town had 11 shade trees installed by Stadler Nursery. As we have tried to do in recent years, all were trees native to the U.S. Among the oaks, maples, and American beech, there are three are new species for us: American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), a disease resistant elm (Ulmus americana ‘Valley Forge’), and a yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea).
The common persimmon requires both a pollinator and female plant to bear fruit. You can tell male trees from female trees because male flowers are smaller and appear in small clusters, while the larger female flower appears alone. However, you won’t know this until May. Even then, it takes several years for trees to bear fruit and production varies from year to year. The fruit is quite astringent when green, but upon ripening becomes butterscotch sweet and may be eaten off the tree. Persimmon trees grow 35 to 60 feet tall. As the tree ages, the dark gray bark becomes broken into rectangular blocks. A large specimen with such bark is found between Pine Ave and Pine Road in Morgan Park. Our two new trees are at the SW corner of Brown and Maple Avenue and near the playground between the basketball court and Woodward Park parking lot.
Although once the favored street and lawn tree through much of the U.S., American elm populations have been so diminished by Dutch elm disease that this tree stopped being considered a viable selection for landscape uses. In recent decades, several disease resistant cultivars have been developed, of which ‘Valley Forge’ is the most resistant. The US Department of Agriculture developed it in the 1990s at its Beltsville research facility. Valley Forge typically grows 60 to 70 feet tall with slightly less spread. Ours is centered on the edge of Woodward Park next to Grove Road.
Yellowwood is native to the southeast, but uncommon. It grows 30 to 50 feet high and wide. Leaves are compound with 5-11 egg shaped leaflets. In May-June, white flowers cascade in aromatic panicles, putting on a show unsurpassed by any other large tree. The flowers attract many pollinators. Fall color is an elegant yellow. Smooth silver-gray bark carries the allure into winter. Yellowwood is an excellent park or memorial tree, as it now serves in memory of Susan (Susie) Cox on the west side of Wade Park.