Saturday, November 6, 2010

October Glory Survives!

While the fall colors have generally been disappointing in the Flint Hills this year, I had held out hope for my October Glory Maple (it was so spectacular last year!).  Alas, it too is lacking some of its normal vibrant red tones in this long warm fall, although the leaves still look pretty darned good against the clear Kansas sky.

I should be happy though, about this tree's continued survival amidst my rocky soil and the past summer's drought.  I planted this beauty in 2007, and as you can see from the pictures at planting time, chiseling out a hole from the loose flint took some effort and resulted in a pile of flint chips that rivaled the tree's root ball.  I wanted it in the front yard, high near the house, so it could be a flaming beacon seen for a long way away when fall comes, but the soil on the top of these hills is a bit sparse.  The local Extension Horticulture agent and I have a bet as to the ultimate survival of the tree, but so far, it seems to be holding its own, having grown about a foot in each of its three years in my yard.

Acer rubrum 'October Glory' is a rapid growing Red Maple cultivar with one of the best fall displays of red leaves in commonly available cultivars.  As advertised, it holds its leaves longer than most other trees, and as I look now across my yard, it is currently the only tree out there with a full compliment of leaves, except for the dull brown Bald Cypress and my tiny Scarlet Oak out back.  It grows with a nice globular form, ultimately stretching 40'-50' high with a 25'-35' spread.  Although it is said to prefer slightly acid and moist conditions, it seems to grow fine on my alkaline, dry prairie. 

One never thinks of a maple tree as being lethal, but as a veterinarian I was interested during my research to learn that the dead or wilted leaves of red maple are extremely toxic to horses, with ingestion of three pounds considered lethal.  I don't treat horses anymore, but I'd better file that one away and make sure I don't put my compost pile near the north fence lines where my neighbor pastures horses. 

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