Reverting to Old Habits

Did you know that the Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’) that is commonly found in cold-climate commercial and residential landscapes is a naturally occuring dwarf of the white spruce species (Picea glauca) and was discovered by J.G. Jack and Alfred Rehder in 1904 in Alberta, Canada? (Dirr, Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, 5th Edition, 1998).

Neither did I, until fellow garden blogger Laura Hayden (@DurableGardener) and I ran across this odd little tree outside our hotel in St. Louis this past weekend where we attended the National Green Centre trade show. I mistakenly identified the unusual growth at the top of the tree as a sport, but Laura correctly pointed out that it wasn’t a sport, but a reversion to the parent species. At some point, a branch of this young tree reverted back to being a full blown species White Spruce, a tree with a much larger and looser habit than the small, dense ‘Conica’. The people responsible for the landscaping at the hotel failed to realize the problem and didn’t prune the reverted branch out.

I hope I remember to drive by this hotel each time I visit St. Louis to check on the progress of this tree. Something tells me that someone will find this abnormality too distasteful and have it pruned out. But I’d definitely be interested in knowing what would happen if it were left to grow into something that might fit more into a Seussian adventure than alongside a hotel parking lot.

One thought on “Reverting to Old Habits”

  1. These reversions happen all the time… it's common in Dwarf Alberta Spruces. There was an old 'Conica' with a huge reverted branch sticking out of it on my drive to work, and I always wanted get a picture of it. It was there for years, making the top side heavier and weirder every year. The time I finally thought to bring my camera, they had pruned it out, leaving a big brown gash. Between the original oddity and now the dead half of the tree, it's been an ugly sight in their front yard for years!

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