Cinnamon Sticks, Up to the Sky

A thing we have in abundance at Kendal is serendipity—something pleasant happening that wasn’t looked for, as when a nuthatch being watched leads the eye to a tree whose bark is the color of cinnamon.

Such a visual treat can transform a routine walk into a discovery, especially on a February day when sunlight reflects off snow, highlighting the textures of that tree’s bark.

Tree species that exfoliate are widely distributed here, including our varieties of birch, the many Acer griseum (paperbark maples), and the nuthatch’s choice—the handsome Stewartia monadelpha that was growing next to cottage #207 when the Hallowells moved in, years ago. After Barbara moved up the hill, she adopted the tree. Wander down to see its dramatic bark, and on the way pause by the younger “Tall Stewartia” (that’s the common name) in front of cottage #112. The young one has one trunk, the older four.

The Stewartia at Longwood Gardens are multi-trunked, either at or above ground level. If you’re at Longwood with a smartphone, use the tree finder feature on Longwood’s website to be led to their state-champion Tall Stewartia, the grandest in Pennsylvania. It too sports smooth, yet peeling, reddish brown bark. And enjoy the five-valved, beaked seedpods, each of which releases up to twenty seeds.

Our neighbor Violet Stuart Richman, but perhaps not her friend Ruth Stewart, may wish that Carl Linnaeus, when naming the genus, hadn’t accepted the spelling advice of a botanist friend. Though his intention was to honor John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, who served as George III’s prime minister, Linnaeus spelled the Earl’s name as “Stewart.” Through the next century, most experts recorded the species as “Stuartia monadelpha,” acknowledging the error. Not until the twentieth century was the matter settled, sort of, by those who publish the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. Some Brits, to this day, feel it’s an open issue.

Call it what you will, the Stewartia monadelpha is a tree to enjoy. While waiting for snow, see photos of its flowers, fruit, and bark at <http//:KCArboretum.org>. There you’ll also find full photo documentation of each tree featured on the KCA tree walks.  

 

                                                                        By Harry Hammond & Judy Czeiner, Photographer