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Garden: The Bee-Bee Tree

The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. This week, Brian Cruey waxes arboreal about one his favorite trees, named after the buzzing, beneficial insects that are so drawn to them.

bee1One of my most favorite trees that we have here at the Berkshire Botanical Garden (which is currently at the top of my “I WANT IT!” list for my own, personal garden) is a tree commonly referred to as the Bee bee tree.

Why is it called the Bee bee tree you ask? Two reasons: For one, it is currently COVERED in bees. Bumble bees, honey bees, you name it, they are swarming this tree. It should really be called the Bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee (you get the idea) tree. It is alive with sound and activity—standing underneath it, you can almost feel the buzzing. Also, if that weren’t appropriate enough, the seeds that the tree produces look like the tiny black buckshot used in BB guns.

I just started my first hive this spring, so as a new bee-person, I’m always on the lookout for plants that are going to feed my precious pollinators. However, I don’t just add big plants like trees to my yard for one, good attribute.  When selecting new plants for your garden, especially ones like trees and woody shrubs that are going to take up a lot of room, it’s nice when there is more than one characteristic that makes the plant appealing. When taking trees into consideration, here are some things to look for:

bee2Growth Habit: Is this a climbing tree? A nice shade tree? Do the limbs grow out horizontally from the trunk? Do they bend towards the ground? How big will it get? Sometimes a plant’s best attribute can be its shape and the way you use that shape in your landscape.

Bark texture and color: We all recognize the beauty of the birch tree’s white bark. There are a wide variety of trees where the bark can provide interest both in the summer and in the winter once the leaves have fallen. It’s always good to think about those long Berkshire winters when planting and how to add a little color here and there.

Flower and Fruit: Flowering trees and shrubs are great, however, keep in mind that while some trees may not have the big flower show, their fruit might be the attribute that makes it worthwhile. Not only can fruit feed wildlife like birds, deer or you yourself, but they can also be beautiful.

Foliage: Not all trees are created equal in this department. Leaves come in all different shapes and sizes and will start as one color in the spring, take on another in the summer, and become something totally different in the fall. Foliage is one of the most prominent and showy features of most trees and can offer a lot in terms of interest throughout the seasons.

bee3So here’s why I like the Bee bee tree: A member of the Rutaceae family, Tetradium Daniellii has a couple of other good things going for it beyond its subtle, bee-attracting blossoms. Its umbrella-shaped growth habit makes it a great shade tree that’s perfect for climbing. The bark is a nice, smooth texture with a light, gray color. Though it doesn’t have much in terms of fall color, the pinnate, compound leaves usually have a consistent, glossy, dark green hue throughout the growing season and birds love those little black “BB” seeds that fall from reddish-purple seed pods that will stay on the tree from late August through November.

Want to see one in action? Stop by the Garden where one is currently in bloom between the Visitor’s Center and the Tool Shed. 

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 08/20/13 at 07:30 PM • Permalink