If Shakespeare Was An Arborist


I often reflect back on one of the few lines I’ve memorized from Romeo and Juliet; “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  No doubt that Shakespeare was talking about the common rose.  But the common garden rose is in the genus Rosa, one of a hundred genera in the very large Rosaceae family that is even further sub-categorized into hundreds of different species and varieties.

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Arborists are taught to learn about the taxonomical hierarchy of plants.  This complex system of plant naming categorizes them into groups according to similarities and differences in their reproductive structures; from the most general to the most specific characteristics.  You may recall the high school biology mnemonic device: King Phillip came over from great Spain.  This represents the hierarchy: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.  In the landscape world, we deal mostly with genus and species, although plant families are also important. The diagrams below illustrate the complexity of taxonomy well beyond what I have simplified as well as the plants which fall into the Rosaceae family.

Kingdom_Plantae_Diagram

Plants in the Rosaceae family
Plants in the Rosaceae family

My arboreal brain makes the connection between the common rose and the Rosaceae family,  more specifically at this time of year: the Pyrus or pear, one genus in the Rosaceae family.  This tree is what prompted me to write this month’s blog.  The Pyrus kawakamii, commonly known as the Flowering Pear or Evergreen Pear, is currently in its peak of glory.  This observation is evident throughout our city of Santa Barbara due to its liberal planting.  The flowering pear is a rose by a different name.  It is quite beautiful at this time of year, but doesn’t smell sweet like the garden rose, nor does it live up to its rose compadre with its part time flower display.  Obviously, Shakespeare was not referring to this rose family member.

IMG_0258
A Santa Barbara street lined with Evergreen pear (Pyrus kawakamii)
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Evergreen pear (Pyrus kawakamii) in full bloom
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A closer look at the bloom shows evidence of its place in the Rosaceae family

For about two to three weeks per year the Flowering Pear is amazing.  Similarly, for many rose family members, the flowering period is very short.  This is also true for the stone fruits in the genus Prunus.  Yet the pear’s enticement is enough to inspire people to plant it without concern for the other eleven months of problems.

Cherry tree species (Prunus spp.) in its full glory
Cherry tree species (Prunus serrulata) in its full glory
Close up of flowering quince
Close up of flowering quince (Chaenomeles spp.)
Loquat species (Eriotryba japonica) in bloom
Loquat species (Eriotryba japonica) in bloom
Also in the Rosaceae Pyracantha spp. with berries, and with flowers
Also in the Rosaceae family, a pyrocantha spp. with berries, and with flowers

I have regularly advised my clients and students that this tree is over-planted and over-rated.  An assortment of leaf diseases are clearly visible on this tree species throughout most the year.  The pear (or rose family member) is highly susceptible to bacterial fireblight and several fungal diseases that result in an abundance of distorted, declining, and dead leaves and stems.

Typical fireblight in flowering pear (Pyrus kawakamii)
Fireblight in flowering pear (Pyrus kawakamii) showing dieback of leaves and stems
Leaf spot is very common in Flowering pear (Pyrus kamakamaii)
Leaf spot is very common in Flowering pear (Pyrus kamakamaii)
Bad pruning & bad timing for this flowering pear
Bad pruning & bad timing for this flowering pear

It is important to acknowledge the good and bad points of a tree before selecting it for the landscape.  With the pear, if a tree owner is only interested in the brief flowering period, than it may be the appropriate tree.  If the foliage, shade, and low maintenance is the preference, then this is not the right tree, especially when its chosen to be the dominant species in the landscape.  The aesthetic quality of a property dominated by one tree species, can be severely impacted when a pest or disease becomes established.  For more information in selecting trees, please click on the link to a previous article where section one discusses choosing the right tree.

As far a Shakespeare’s perspective, if he were an arborist, he would have known that other plants in the rose family, may not smell as sweet.

How can I help you with your trees?

Treemendously yours,

Bill Spiewak 

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10 Comments

  1. That’s a wonderful “blog” Bill. Thank you for all that great information, in belongs in the Santa arbara magazine!
    We own a huge old fat palm tree that survived one of our major fires in Mission Cyn. a couple of years back. The thew looks healthy but the trunk is still black. What can be done to resti the beauty of its trunk?

    1. Paul,
      Thanks for the kind words. Regarding your palm, you may want to try using a wire brush to remove the char. However, you need to be careful not to break through the layer of pseudo bark. I’m assuming its a Canary Island Date palm and perhaps there are persistent leaf bases still attached to the pseudo bark that offer more protection to the trunk. Please send a photo to my email so I can confirm my suspicion.
      Bill

      1. DEAR BILL.
        I NOTED AGAIN YOUR CALLING “THE POLLARDING OF TREES” BAD TREE PRUNING….
        AGAIN IM SORRY TO SAY WITH ALL OF YOUR HIPE ABOUT BEING AN EXPERT. YOU REALLY ARE LIVING IN BUBBLE.
        ITS TIME YOU TOOK A TRIP OUT OF THE COUNTRY TO TRY TO LEARN SOMTHING ABOUT TREE CARE..

        YOUR LIKE A CHILD WHO HAS GROWN UP WITH ONLY ONE POINT OF VIEW AND NEVER CAN QUESTION ALL THE EVIDENCE THAT PROVES WHAT YOU HAVE COME TO BE A TRUTH….IS A LIE AND. AND SPENDING YOUR TIME CONTINUING THAT LIE….AND MISLEADING THE PUBLIC.

        I CAN THINK OF A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST LIKE YOU BECASUE THESE ARE PEOPLE WITHOUT ANY SENCE OF CURIOUSITY. AND ARE SELF RIGHTEOUS TO A POINT OF BEING RIDUCULOUS.

        AT THIS POINT THERE IS NOTHING I CAN SAY THAT WILL MAKE YOU ANY SMARTER…..BUT TRAVEL WILL MAKE YOU GROW UP.

        TRY ENGLAND FRANCE SPAIN PORTUGAL RUSSIA AND BREAK OUT OF YOUR TUNNEL OF INGNORANCE.
        A GOOD MIND…IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WAST.

        YOURS GENE TYBURN

      2. My critic at least credits me with a good mind. I do appreciate that. As far as the blog “If Shakespeare were an Arborist”, the topic was primarily referring to the confusion between botanical and common names. I did feature a poorly pruned pyrus tree. Please know that the Best Management Practices published by the International Society of Arboriculture do discuss pollarding. However, they refer to it as a specialty form of pruning that is initiated when the tree is young and repeated annually to develop a specific form. I have observed very few properly pollarded trees in Santa Barbara over my 35 year career although have seen some behind closed gates and in other areas of the country. It is indeed accepted when done properly. Unfortunately, tree trimmers butcher a tree and then call it pollarded. Do you think Shakespeare would have made that mistake?

      3. MR S.
        LETS KEEP SHAKESPEARE OUT OF THIS…HE WAS A POET WHO PLACED HIS CHARACTER UNDER TREES, NOT IN THEM.

        I THINK I MIGHT BE WASTING MY TYPING UNLESS YOU TAKE A TRIP OUT OF THE COUNTRY…WE AMERICAN DID NOT INVENT TREE CARE….THE GARDENS OF VERSY IN FRANCE WERE A TOPEARY PERFECTION WHEN WASHINGTON DC. WAS A MUD VILLAGE.

        WITH ALL YOUR GREAT EFFORTS TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC …I APPLAUD THIS.!!! BUT UNFORTUNATLY YOU DONT HAVE THE WORLD WIDE EXPERIENCE TO EDUCATE OTHER WHEN YOU REMAIN SO LIMITED IN YOUR WORLDLY EXPERIENCE, REGARDING TREE CARE.

        ITS LIKE A GUY WHO WORKS AT NASA….TELLING THE PUBLIC ABOUT SPACE FLIGHT …BUT NEVER BEING UP IN A ROCKET.

        BUT YOU JUST SEEM TO IGNORE THIS FACT THAT A MORE WORLDLY EXPERIENCE IS NECESSARY …ESPECCILLY REGARDING TREE WORK THAT PERFORMED AROUND THE WORLD .

        IT REMINDS ME OF THE TREE EXPERT WHO KNOWS ALL THE LATIN NAMES OF TREES….BUT DOES NOT KNOW FUNGS PROBLEM WHEN HE SEES IT.

        IT WOULD DO YOU A LOT OF GOOD.. IF YOUR ABLE TO OPEN YOUR MIND AND NOT JUST BELIVE IN DOGMA.

        YOUR RELIENCE ON THE ARTICALS FROM THE ARBORCULTURAL SOC. IS THE BLIND TEACHING THE BLIND.

        YOU BEING A FRIEND OF TIM [NO NOTHING DOWNEY] COME FROM THE SAME SCHOOL. I KNOW WHAT I KNOW….BECAUSE SOMEONE TOLD ME IT WAS SO.

        INSTEAD OF OPENING YOUR EYES…INVESTEGATING AND QUESTIONING.
        MR. DOGMA….SEEMS TO BE THE TEACHER YOU LEARNED FROM .

        I HAVE OVER THE YEARS TALKED TO MANY OF YOU STUDENTS…AND HAVE LEARNED OF MUCH OF THE MIS-INFORMATION YOU HAVE SPREAD. AND SPENDING TIME WITH THEM PROVED CONCLUSAVLY THAT YOU FILLED THEM WITH WRONG CONCEPTS.

        ONCE BING TAUGHT WRONG CONCEPTS ….IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO CONVINCE THEM ..OTHER WISE….BECAUSE THEY RESPECTED YOU..

        ON THE OTHER HAND ….THEY JUST DIDNT KNOW HOW YOU LACKED THE KNOWLEDGE TO SHOW THEM THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO ATTACK TREE PROBLEMS. AND THAT ” THE BOOK DOES NOT HANDLE ALL THE PROBLEMS”

        WORLD WIDE EXPERIENCE IS THE ANSEWER

        YOURS GENE TYBURN

        WHO FOUGHT THE CITY TWO TIMES AND WON …..BECAUSE THEY WERE SCREWING THE PUBLIC AND I WAS NOT GOING TO LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT..

        WHY DONT YOU SHOW SOME COURAGE SOME TIME.

      4. AS FOR SHAKESPEARE…ONE QUOTE FROM HIS WORKS DOES NOT AN EXPERT MAKE.
        IF YOU WANTED TO REALLY EXPAND YOUR EDUCATION. YOU WOULD READ MY RENDITION OF 4 OF HIS WORKS ON MY SITE.

        IT MIGHT DO YOU SOME GOOD..POETRY IS AS GODLY AS TREE WORK.

        TYBURNOPERAS.COM ….IT WONT HURT YOU…AND MIGHT EDUCATE YOU.

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