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Crab Days of August

Crab Days of August

August 23, 2013

This a good time of the  year if you like Chesapeake Bay blue crabs– Callinectes sapidus, for all you Latin lovers, or lovers of Latin.

It’s also a great time to check in on Malus angustifolia, the wild crabapple. Or is it Malus coronaria, sweet crabapple? There’s a great grouping by the Brandywine River Museum’s front entrance. The trees form a dramatic cluster, with twists and turns. They’re a natural work of  art. The tiny apples are everywhere right now, dangling from the branches. The critters love these little treats. Visitors, though, are kindly asked to resist temptation, and instead take their appetites inside to the Museum’s fantastic restaurant.

Brandywine Wildflower Journal was having trouble making a positive ID on these special trees, so we went to Horticultural Coordinator Mark Gormel for help. Malus angustifolia orMalus coronaria? His answer… Neither. Gormel’s excellent explanation just arrived in BWJ’s inbox:

“The  trees are accurately Malus prunifolia ‘Callaway’, often called Callaway crabapples. The species is not native to the U.S. – it is an Asiatic form. The name, Callaway, derives from Callaway Gardens in Georgia and is a form selected by the famous horticulturist Fred Galle, who made this particular selection from a number of promising M. prunifolia that had excellent disease resistance as well as minimal flower bud chilling requirement (with regard to big floral displays, something of big concern in the south). 

These trees were planted in the days prior to the Conservancy’s decision to utilize only native plants for new plantings.  They would have been planted in 1972 or ’73. (The decision to go native wasn’t made until 1974 and even then, tough naturalized plant species were always a part of the landscaping additions.)  They have been here so long, are so much appreciated (by most) and are such a part of the character of the museum’s façade that they have never been replaced because of their nativity.“

Brandywine  Bloom Cam: 8/20/13

Now’s also the time to catch the showy purple flowers of Vernonia noveboracensis. New York Ironweed plants can be 6 feet or so tall. Even though you might think these things must run on electricity because the blooms are so brilliant, you will not find any extension cords, no matter how hard you look. Brandywine Wildflower Journal likes these flowers so much, we bought seeds collected here and sold in the Brandywine  River Museum’s gift shop. And they’re growing!