This week, as I wandered the Arboretum, I kept returning to the southeast side of Bussey Hill (just off Beech Path) to be among some venerable Asian oaks, and in particular, Quercus variabilis, the oriental oak or Chinese cork oak. I am drawn to these trees because of their deeply furrowed bark, their smooth brown fruits (the “acorn” – bottom right) and over-the-top caps (the “cupule” – top). The cupules, with their unruly curled tough awl-shaped scale leaves, are all over the ground under each tree. I also love the fact that while autumn is everywhere around us, the leaves on this species of oak haven’t even begun to rescind the deep green of summertime (bottom left). No reds, no golds – just stoic size and majestic basic colors.
As for provenance, it all starts with a nice nineteenth century specimen (3671*) collected by Charles Sprague Sargent (first Director of the Arboretum) during his travels to Japan in 1892. John Jack (Arboretum dendrologist, educator, and plant explorer – Arnoldia article) got into the game with an accession (18053*A) from his travels to Asia in 1905. A 1908 specimen (17631*A) collected by Ernest Henry Wilson grows just yards away, as well as a much younger tree (753-94*A) from the 1994 NACPEC (North America China Plant Exploration Consortium) collecting expedition to China.
–Ned Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum