Randal Mindell, the Garden’s resident paleobotanist, took today’s Botany Photo of the Day, and Steve Coughlin wrote the accompanying entry.
Fagaceae (the beech family) consists primarily of trees, but counts certain shrubby plants among its members as well. The family boasts between 7 and 12 genera, and includes around 1000 deciduous and evergreen species that, with the exceptions of tropical and southern Africa, are distributed broadly across the planet’s geographical and climatic regions. According to Flora of China, Fagaceae species constitute the majority of both China’s broad-leaved evergreen and mixed mesophytic forests between 500 and 3200 metres in elevation. Many of the species found in these forests serve as timber for carpentry, but the family has perhaps found its jolliest historical application in the production of libations, serving both as raw material for wine barrels and wine corks, and as a flavoring for beers as well.
Lithocarpus consists of about 340 evergreen species that are for the most part native to temperate and tropical Asia, though one species, Lithocarpus densiflorus, is native to western North America (California and southern Oregon). Typically, the leaves of Lithocarpus species are arranged spirally. The genus’s most diverse and primitive species are found in China’s Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan provinces.
The species featured in today’s photo, L. variolosus, tends to reach its apex at a height of 20 metres. Its trunk wears a strong, silvery bark, and the leathery, dark-green leaves range from ovate to lanceolate in shape. Lithocarpus variolosus is among the hardiest of Lithocarpus species, but enjoys light shade when sited in searing heat. The plant initially flowers from May to July, and, the subsequent year, from July to September. The species was first introduced to North America around 1990 (at Quarryhill Botanical Garden in Sonoma County, California), and came here to UBC the following year. Thus far, L. variolosus has thrived in Vancouver’s climate. The species is easily propagated by seed or by cuttings, particularly when these last are collected in the fall from the growth of the current season.
Hogan, Sean. Trees for All Seasons: Broadleaved Evergreens for Temperate Climates. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2008.