Contributed by Katherine Wagner-Reiss

Corylus fargesii 1996-574*-A Sunlight backlights the exfoliating bark. This tree, easily spotted on the Azalea Meadow path where it parallels Hillcrest Avenue, was collected as a seed during a 1996 Expedition to Shaanxi and Gansu. Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss.

A lot can be gained by dissecting the name Corylus fargesii (Farges filbert). The genus name Corylus comes from the Greek krylos meaning “hazelnut.” The specific epithet fargesii  honors Père Paul Guillaume Farges (1844-1912), one of several French Catholic naturalist missionaries to China including Père David, the subject of a previous blog ;  Père Farges  sent over 4,000 plant specimens to the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, resulting in the discovery of hundreds of new species.

Corylus fargesii 1996- 574*-A Notice the husk/bracts/ involucre enclosing the nut on August 24, 2019, four days after St. Philibert’s Day. Do you see a bonnet or a beard? Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss.

The common name of Corylus fargesii is Farges filbert. One thought on the origin of the name “filbert” is that in England the nuts mature around August 20, the Catholic feast day of St. Philibert; other historians hold that “filbert” derives from the German vollbart meaning full beard, referring to the beard-like husk around the nut. Filbert and hazelnut are essentially interchangeable. The name “hazel” likely comes from the Anglo-Saxon word haesel, which means “bonnet” or “headdress” and again emphasizes the fancy bracts/involucre/husk surrounding the nut (see the photo for this noteworthy appearance).

The nuts produced by Corylus fargesii are edible. Most nuts sold in American grocery stores as filberts or hazelnuts are from the shrubby European filbert Corylus avellana (meaning from Avella, Italy) and cultivars/ hybrids thereof because their large nuts make them profitable; the native shrub, Corylus americana, yields edible but smaller nuts. Nutella or hazelnut coffee, anyone?

Corylus fargesii 1996- 574* Numerous pendulous male catkins characteristic of  Betulaceae, the birch family, will supply pollen to female flowers in the spring. Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss.

The Gayle E. Maloney Director of Horticulture and Curator at the Morris Arboretum, Anthony S. Aiello, has represented Morris Arboretum on botanical expeditions to China on which C. fargesii samples have been collected in the wild. “The Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia undoubtedly has the most comprehensive collection of Corylus fargesii with plants from both the 1996 and 2005 expeditions and seedlings from the 2015 expedition.” C. fargesii was the International Dendrology Society’s 2016 Tree of the Year.

After seeing the dramatic bark, you may want this member of the birch family in your own garden; fortunately, it is becoming increasingly available in retail nurseries because of its four-season interest and disease-resistance. Before planting, though, do realize that Corylus fargesii grows to 80-100 feet in its native China and is predicted to reach at least half that height in cultivation.

At the Morris Arboretum you will encounter six other species of Corylus: C. americana, C. avellana, C. chinensis, C. colurna, C. mandshurica, and C. tibetica. Each of the names describes at least a portion of the range except for C. colurna where a portion of its range is revealed in its common name, Turkish filbert.

Many plants bear the specific epithet fargesii and, in addition to Corylus fargesii, the Morris Arboretum cultivates Abies fargesii var. faxoniana, Clethra barbinervis x fargesii, Decaisnea fargesii, and Ilex fargesii, which all conjure up the image of a 19th century French missionary who made tremendous inroads into the botanical exploration of China.

Katherine has her Certificate in Botany from the New York Botanical Garden and is a botanical tour guide and freelance writer.

At this time of year we are subject to heavy frosts in unusual places.  If the temperature is below freezing, there is a good chance frost will be present somewhere.  Do not drive, walk or work on the grass when temperatures are below freezing!  And here’s why:

Grass blades are exquisitely beautiful when covered with frost.  There is something magical about a hoary frost in the early morning light which conjures picturesque images of Jack Frost and the winter to come.  However, do not be fooled by the fairy tale. Far from benign, frost is essentially miniature frozen daggers arranged randomly all over the turfgrass blades.  When you walk or drive on frosted grass, the pressure of your foot or tire drives these tiny ice daggers into the grass blade.  Nobody wants to get stabbed by millions of tiny ice daggers, least of all turfgrass blades.  When this injury happens, the grass blades first turn black, then brown as they die a tortuous death.  Additionally, turf damage done at this time of year is particularly devastating because the grass blades have stopped growing for the season.  Turfgrass damaged in the fall or winter will not recover until next spring.  Any damage that occurs now will be a constant reminder throughout the entire winter of your senseless disregard for the health and well-being of turfgrasses everywhere.

The tricky thing, however, is that just because there is no frost visible does not mean there is no frost present.  A light frost or a frost at soil level will not necessarily show itself.  Sometimes, even a heavy frost will melt off the outer turfgrass canopy but still be present on the interior canopy long after air temperatures have risen above freezing. 

So, to protect your lawn, your best course of action is as follows:

1)            Never drive on the grass in the winter.

2)            Never walk on frosted grass.

3)            Stay on the paved paths in winter when possible.




Contributed by Brigette Brown

Despite the wonderful seasonal variety that autumn presents, there are those who already have their sights set on spring. Hovering safely out of summer’s grasp and just moments before the frost’s annual arrival, October or November are magical time of year for planting—and preparing—bulbs.


Nestling underground, bulbs have evolved to ensure their important energy and nutrients are conserved during winter’s dormancy in order to reappear and thrive in the spring. When a significant amount of a plant’s anatomy remains underground, it is known as a storage organ, or a geophyte. Natural predators such as grazing herbivores and adverse weather conditions, are of less concern to a plant whose life-preserving bulk is hidden well out of sight. Geophytes own a wide array of characteristics, and of course, names: tubers, roots, caudices, corms, pseudobulbs, true bulbs, and more. Many even come from different botanical ancestors despite their very similar methods of reproduction and survival, a phenomenon that scientists call convergent evolution. However, for most of us, they are colloquially known as bulbs.

Besides surviving, bulbs can also reproduce underground through propagation. The plant creates a smaller bulbil or bulblet, which uses the energy and nutrients of the main bulb and its root system to grow into a new one. However, one should not be surprised to find that some species, like those found in the onion and garlic genus Allium, form their bulbils in the flower’s head instead. Plants that flower, otherwise broadly known as angiosperms, appeared some 125 million years ago when the earth developed the natural sense and resourcefulness of using colorful, attractive blossoms for reproduction. And so, bulbs flower too, using pollination to reproduce, which creates seeds that can take up to seven years to grow into their own bulb and bloom. 

And it is these flowers that attracted humans, just like pollinators, to the magic of bulbs: the tall, elegant tulip; the carousing, jovial daffodil; the stout, ceremonial hyacinth. All across the world, these geophytes inspired royal gardens, vast economic trade, culinary craft, and even drove entire cultures into an unregulated frenzy of delight and desire. Specialty vases, shaped much like an Empire waist gown, were created to force bulbs into bloom indoors, a hobby that spread quickly from the eighteenth century into the Victorian era, and even today.

If you don’t have an outdoor garden of your own to plant bulbs, simply prepare them indoors. This autumn, pick up a few bulbs—hyacinths and narcissus are great starters. Fill a mason jar half-way with clean pebbles or marbles and place the bulb, flat side down, on the pile. Then fill the jar with water until it just touches the very bottom of the bulb, no more. Place in the refrigerator for 10—12 weeks. You’ll see roots forming over this span, so be sure to top off the water when it evaporates. Bring out your bulb jar and place it in a dark, but warmer, spot for a few days until you see a tip of growth. Then move it to a sunny windowsill. The bulb will bloom, filling the room with springtime in the heart of winter. When the bulb has completed its cycle, fades and turns yellow, cut off the growth and find a spot outdoors to plant it.

Contributed by guest blogger Rick Sellano

Orange is near the top of autumn's color wheel. Visit the Morris Arboretum now and find a bounty of orange in nature. After drinking in the abundance of fall foliage in countless shades of the hue, stroll to the Rose Garden. Beautiful examples of an orange focus await.

At the bottom of the stone steps that mark the entrance of the Rose Garden turn left and then face southwest—in the direction of the Sculpture Garden. Take in the expanding view. There grow hearty plants of Leonotis leonurus, a member of the mint family native to Southern Africa. The bold color of the flowers is reminiscent of tangerines. Citrus fruits and the color orange are directly linked. The word for the color stems from the old term for the fruit, "pomme d'orange." 

 Leonotis leonurus

 Leonotis leonurus #1Photo by Rick Sellano

 Leonotis leonurus

 Leonotis leonurus #2. Photo by Rick Sellano


A search for apricot-colored flowers in the Rose Garden leads to the buds and blooms of Rosa ‘AUSnyson’ Lady of Shalott. A hybrid developed by notable British rose expert, David Austin, "the Lady" thrives in the garden. This rose beauty exemplifies Austin's passion for combining the fragrance of old garden roses with the flowering power of modern roses.


Leonotis leonurus

Rosa Lady of ShalottPhoto by Rick Sellano


Leonotis leonurus

Strelitzia reginae. Photo by Rick Sellano

Wander a bit and discover some Strelitzia reginae (bird of paradise) flowers in bloom. Named for the birds native to New Guinea and Australia, the flowers appear to be winged creatures visiting the plant to drink its nectar. Botanists named the genus after the duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the birthplace of Queen Charlotte of the United Kingdom.

For shade and rest, head back up the steps to the bench on the left. Orange-colored rose hips bob in the breeze there. Consider the many artists who captured the orange colors of nature, with Vincent van Gogh as an example. Artists' orange pigment, developed in the 1800s, was deftly used by van Gogh in Still Life of Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves


 Leonotis leonurus

Still Life of Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves by Vincent van Gogh. Available in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

 Leonotis leonurus

Rose hips. Photo by Rick Sellano


Fall favors orange. We see orange in trees, flowers, and our Halloween pumpkins. Some tie colors to emotions and say that the color orange symbolizes enthusiasm. After experiencing an orange-focused adventure, visitors usually agree.