Diospyros virginiana

2023 – Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)

Photo courtesy of Trees Atlanta

With long, pendulous branches, persimmon is a unique choice for the landscape. Although the dark green, ovate leaves complement the grayish, blocky, alligator-skin bark through the growing season, this tree really shines in fall when it bears bright orange leaves and small, apricot-colored fruits. Similar to the non-native persimmon fruits sold in the grocery store, these native persimmons are very sweet once ripe and are delicious fresh or can be baked into breads and other desserts. The fruits also attract a wide variety of wildlife including birds. Persimmon is a dioecious species, meaning that there are separate male and female trees. In order to produce fruits, the female must have a male pollinator nearby. It grows best in dry to medium soils in full sun to part shade. This tree reaches 35-60′ in height and spreads about 25-30′, but under less-than-ideal conditions can grow in a shrubby habit and reach only 15′.

Cladrastis kentukea

2019 – Yellowwood

 American yellowwood is a medium-sized tree native to the southeastern United States, reaching 30-50 feet tall when mature. Indicative of its name, the wood is yellow and encased by smooth grey to light brown bark. It has panicles of white, showy, and fragrant flowers that bloom in the spring. In the fall, it can be identified by its brilliant yellow foliage and bean-like fruits.

Yellowwood grows in full-sun to full-shade, but performs best in part-sun to part-shade with well-drained soil. It makes a great residential tree and can serve as a focal point on smaller properties or can be planted in masses in larger landscapes. Its roots grow deep into the ground making it an ideal tree to plant under. Pruning should occur in summer because the wood is prone to bleeding if pruned in late winter or early spring.  There are very few cultivars of this species with the most notable being ‘Perkins Pink’ which sports light pink flowers.


Illicium floridanum

2019 – Florida Anise Tree

 Despite the common name, this rapidly growing, broadleaf evergreen shrub grows 6-10 feet tall and 4-8 feet wide. It is native to the southeastern United States and northern Mexico, and can be found in moist, wooded areas. One of its most attractive characteristics is the maroon-purple star-like blooms. The flower is 1-2 inches in diameter and blooms April-May. These unique flowers have a pungent fragrance and are pollinated by flies and beetles. The foliage has a strong spicy fragrance when crushed, which makes this plant unpalatable to deer. Florida Anise Tree thrives in moist, well-drained, and highly organic soil, and partial to full shade. Although native to the deep south, Illicium floridanum has proved winter hardy at Jenkins for over 30 years.

This plant was first discovered in 1766 and entered into cultivation shortly after. Some popular cultivars include ‘Alba’, which has a white bloom, ‘Halley’s Comet’, which has larger red blooms, and ‘Shady Lady’, which has light pink flowers and variegated foliage.


Magnolia grandiflora

2018 Southern Magnolia

Southern magnolia is a medium-sized, evergreen understory tree native to the southern coastal plain from the Gulf Coast across the top of Florida and up into South Carolina.  Though not native to southeastern Pennsylvania, there are several hardy selections that make it possible for us to enjoy this beautiful tree in our own landscape.  Listed in order of size, from largest to smallest, some of these selections include ‘Edith Bogue’, ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’, ‘Kay Parris’, and ‘Teddy Bear’.

The ornamental qualities of southern magnolia are unlike any other.  It has large, thick, dark green leaves with a glossy shine on top and a layer of fuzzy brown hairs below.  Its classic, huge white flowers can be 12” or more in diameter and perfume the springtime air with an intoxicating, lemon soap-like fragrance.  By fall, the flowers have given way to large, cone-like fruits, containing orange-red berries that dangle on thin filaments and attract songbirds.

Southern Magnolia will grow in full sun to full shade, but will perform best in part sun with moist, rich, well-draining soils.  In our climate, it is best to plant in a location where it can be protected from harsh winter winds.  Like all magnolias, there are no major pests and it is highly deer resistant, though bucks may rub their antlers on the smooth trunks.

Carpinus caroliniana

2014 – American Hornbeam

American Hornbeam

American Hornbeam is a small, slow- growing understory tree that generally grows to 25 feet tall. It is so named because of the hardness of the wood which reminded settlers of a horn and an Old English term for beam which means tree. Another name for this tree is “Musclewood”. While looking at the plant’s trunk and branches they look like a flexing muscle because of the structure of the wood and the coloring of the bark. That “muscular” feature is perhaps its best identifying characteristic.
American Hornbeam is a member of the Betulaceae or Birch Family. Its flower is a non-conspicuous catkin, and the plant is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are present on the same plant. The foliage is nice and clean throughout the season with not many pest problems. The tree is best suited for growing in moist, well drained soils in partial sun to moderate shade, although it is adaptable and will acclimate to less than ideal situations. This tree’s true beauty is revealed in the autumn when its deciduous foliage turns varying shades of yellow and orange, and then eventually drops to expose the muscular branching structure in winter. American Hornbeam is a great selection for the woodland garden. It is a species that has changed very little with cultivar selection like so many others. So when an American Hornbeam is planted in the landscape, there is a piece of pure natural beauty in the garden.