The Trees and Shrubs in Oakland Cemetery

Date Published: 
August, 1904
Original Author: 
John M. Boxell
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 18th Annual Concention

You see by the program that the paper of the evening was to be on "The Hardier and More Reliable Trees and Shrubs," by Professor J. F. Cowell, Director Botanic Garden, Buffalo, New York. This was to be followed by a discussion to be led by myself, against my will, as I expected a treat in listening to a paper on this important subject by Professor Cowell, fully realizing that he would tell us of a great many things with which I have had no practical experience and hence would be unable to discuss intelligently. I was not sure that my name would be on the program until I received an official copy of the same three days ago. Under the circumstances I thought the best thing for me to do would be to prepare a list of the deciduous trees and shrubs that are growing in Oakland Cemetery, St. Paul, to present at this meeting, making such comments on them as deemed proper, thus filling the time allotted to me more profitably than in the discussion.

However, as neither Professor Cowell nor his paper has arrived at this time, for which, in the interests of this association I am very sorry, I will give you the list which I have prepared, taking perhaps more time on the comments than I should have done otherwise.

Fifty-one years ago when the cemetery where I am now superintendent was named, it was appropriately called "Oakland," in honor of the large number of oaks with which the ground was covered in its native state. Of these there are at this time at least five varieties, as follows: burr oak, black oak, red oak, scarlet oak and white oak. The burr oak is by far the best of the lot. It will stand cultivation and the necessary digging and cutting near it much better than any of the others.

Of the, elm, we have three varieties: the American white, the red or slippery and the weeping slippery. The red or slippery elm is native in the cemetery, but is of little value compared with the white elm.

Of the maples we have the common white or soft maple, the sugar maple, the Norway maple, Schwedler's Norway, Reitenbach's Norway, Weir's cut leaved weeping, the sycamore and the red or scarlet. These have all proved hardy and very satisfactory. When I first tried Weir's cut-leaved, some twelve or fifteen years ago, I had my doubts about it being satisfactory, but of later year it seems to be quite as hardy as any other variety. We have planted more Schwedler's Norway than any other kind, its crimson foliage in the spring making it very attractive with the other green trees that we have. The box elder you all know.

Of the ash we have the white and the black, both hardy and native in the northwest. The white is much more satisfactory than the black, it being one of our most valuable shade trees.

Of the poplars we have nine varieties in the cemetery, as follows:  Lombardy, Carolina Van Geert's golden, Bolleana, Russian, balsam, silver leaved, Canadian or cottonwood and the native variety, trembling (Populus tremuloides). The Russian I will never plant any more of.  Each of the others is good to a limited extent.

Of the lindens we have two, the American and the European. I prefer the American, although the European is very satisfactory, its shape and leaf being quite different from the American.

Of the willows we have the white, the yellow Russian or golden, the laurel leaved, the royal and the Wisconsin weeping. Of these the white and the golden are the hardiest; they are quite hardy. The laurel leafed has not proved satisfactory at all times. It has done very well until it reached a fair size and then has suddenly failed and almost died, and perhaps had to be removed. I might say pretty nearly the same of the royal, but the royal will come again when it is severely cut back. The silvery foliage of the royal makes it a very pleasant contrast to the other trees. Some that we cut back severely last year came again beautifully this year. The Wisconsin weeping is the only weeping variety that we have had any particular success with. We have several specimens of considerable size which are doing very nicely.

Of the birches we have the American white, American yellow, the European white, and the cut-leaved weeping. I am not sure but that our common American white is the best of the lot. Our American yellow is a fine tree, worthy of consideration. I do not like the European white, as well as I do, the American white. The cut-leaved weeping birch you all know, and it is a splendid tree, but the great trouble with it is its short life. We have not one in the cemetery over twenty years old that is not beginning to die at the top. Quite a number of our best ones have been removed.

We have the white walnut or butternut, which is a native of the State in certain localities and we have also a few specimens of the black walnut. When we planted the black walnut I was a little skeptical, but we have several specimens that have done quite well and have a good start. The black walnut is a native to a small extent in southeastern Minnesota.

Of the larch we have the American or tamarack and the European, the European being the much more handsome and satisfactory tree.

Of the locusts, we have the black or yellow, and a thorn less variety of the honey locust. To my pleasant surprise I have found this variety of honey locust a very hardy tree as I had presumed it to be a very doubtful one.

The horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is quite hardy. I have not had it in the cemetery more than eight years, but there are some good specimens in the city.

The Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus Can.) has also proven quite hardy. A single native specimen about thirty feet in height was found in a ravine in the city a few years ago.

Of the mountain ash we have the American, European and oak leaved, with which you are all acquainted; all quite hardy but none of them very long lived in my estimation.

The Catalpa speciosa is about half hardy. I have some quite large specimens. Its large foliage and beautiful flowers make it worthy of consideration, even if it does die within a short time.

The nettle tree (Celtis occidentalis) is native in the state to a very limited extent. I know of one specimen on the west side that is now quite a large tree. I have a few in the cemetery planted a few years ago.

The Russian mulberry I find to be quite hardy, but it is liable to winter kill at times, sometimes quite severely. I consider it well worth keeping in our place.

The Russian olive is somewhat similar to the Russian mulberry in hardiness. On account of its silvery foliage and the delightful fragrance of its blossoms when in full bloom, the latter part of June; a single specimen of which will perfume a large section; I think it a tree well worthy of consideration.

The wild crab apple I consider an excellent thing. About ten years ago my attention was called to the fact that there was a group of crab apple trees growing on the bluffs inside of the city limits on the west side, I embraced the first opportunity to get as many of them as I could, about twenty-five in all. I have two dumps in the cemetery that reached the blooming stage several years ago and they are certainly a most delightful shrub or small tree. When the flower buds are full size they are a very dark pink, almost a red. As they begin to open the white stripes mingle with the pink beautifully, until they are in full bloom, when they are almost a pure white above and pink beneath, with a rare fragrance. The fruit is no account excepting that it is quite fragrant when ripe.

The common thorn (Crataegus coccinea), which is native, of course; all over the country, is quite abundant in the cemetery and thriving in their natural places, scarcely a single one of them having been removed. They are very fragrant when in full bloom in the spring and also very ornamental in the fall when the fruit has turned red.

Of the Juneberry (Amelanchier Can.), we have a variety in the cemetery that grows to quite a height. The largest one we had died a few years ago, it being six or eight inches in diameter and perhaps 25 feet in height. They are very hardy and are beautiful when in bloom, the first week in May, it being our first tree to flower.

Of the cherry we have three varieties in the cemetery, all native: The choke cherry (Cerasus Virginica) is most beautiful when in full bloom. It is also beautiful when in full ripe fruit. The red cherry (Cerasus Pennsylvanica) is not quite as attractive as the choke cherry, either in its blossoms or fruit, but it is worthy of consideration. The black cherry (Cerasus serotina) is one of our largest trees. We have quite a number of specimens in the cemetery, I am very sorry to say that several of them were taken down in a very severe storm last Saturday night.

The wild plum we have native in the cemetery. That makes, I believe, sixty-one varieties of trees that we have in the cemetery,

We have seventy-nine varieties of shrubs of which I will give you a list. Of the Spireas, we have thirteen varieties. The Van Houttei is perhaps the most valuable of the lot. I presume that you are all acquainted with it. The arguta, which I have tried for a few years, seems quite hardy. The foliage is delicate and attractive. The prunifolia has not proved as hardy as either of the above. The sorbifolia is very hardy, very beautiful in full bloom in the latter part of June, but on account of its spreading rapidly from its roots it is unsatisfactory for use on lots. I shall plant no more of them for that purpose. The Reevesii robusta has proved quite hardy and is good for a bloomer in July. The Opulifolia aurea (the golden leaved nine bark) is very hardy, very attractive with its bright yellow foliage and one that I think very highly of.

The Douglasii and the Billardi are those of the pink variety with the pink spikes. They ate quite hardy and very satisfactory. The Douglasii is a little bit coarser in its leaf and flower than the Billardi, and its foliage is lighter colored.

The callosa and bumulda and the Anthony Waterer are three varieties of the pink with the flat blossoms that are not as hardy as any of the foregoing, but on account of their coming so rapidly from the root after they have been cut down, I consider them very valuable shrubs. We have some specimens of the Anthony Waterer in bloom at the present time that I think are as handsome as any I have ever seen. The Thunbergii is very delicate, blooms very early and fairly hardy. I mean by being very delicate that the foliage is of a very delicate nature, very narrow leaf, as most of the members know. The Ariefolia we have tried for a few seasons. Although recommended to be native in North West America, I am not able to say yet as to whether they will prove satisfactory. I might add that there are also two native varieties, pink and white, in the vicinity of St. Paul, but these are not in the cemetery.

Of the Viburnums we have seven varieties: the common snow-ball (sterilis), the plicaturn (Japan), the tomentosum or single form of plicatum; the cassinoides, which has more handsome foliage than the others; the opulus, or high bush cranberry; the prunifolium, or black haw and the pubescens or downy arrow wood. The last three, the high bush cranberry, the black haw and the downy arrow wood, are native in the cemetery. You all know the high bush cranberry, and how valuable it is as an ornamental shrub. I doubt, however, if you all appreciate the value of the prunifolium or “black haw”.  A large specimen of this in full bloom in the early spring is about as ornamental as any shrub that we have. They grow to the height of ten feet or more, and with its creamy white flowers, covering the entire shrub, it is sometimes very attractive. The fruit is also especially attractive, changing to the various colors of greenish white, pink and to a dark blue-black. It is also very edible. The foliage colors about the nicest in the fall of any shrub we have, mingling the colors of green, red and yellow in a delightful manner.  We have but a single specimen of pubescens; it is very hardy and has attained quite a size, being six or seven feet in height.

Of the lilacs we have the Persian pink, Persian white, common white, Charles 10th (pink) and Japan (villosa), all hardy and satisfactory. The Persian pink I plant more of than any other variety. We have also the common purple planted in abundance in early days. But its habit of spreading so much from the roots makes it unfit for use on lots.

Of the Syringas (Philadelphus), we have the coronarius, golden leaved, grandiflora and Lemoineii. Of these the grandiflora I consider the best. I like the golden leaved on account of its contrast in foliage. We have very few shrubs and trees that present a contrast and anything I can get that presents a satisfactory contrast, although it may winter kill sometimes to considerable extent, I like to have. The golden syringa is slow in starting and sometimes winter kills to a small extent.

Of the honeysuckle (Lonicera), we have the Tartarica pink, Tartarica white, Tartarica splendens, which is a dark pink or rose; the Tartarica grandiflora rubra, which is a dark pink, almost a red, with white stripes. These are all hardy and very satisfactory. We have also the Bella Albida, which I got on account of the recommendation of its especially attractive fruit, but while I have had it two years I have not yet seen the fruit, so I cannot tell you about that.
Of the Hydrangeas, we have the paniculata and the paniculata grandiflora. The latter is perhaps more used in the cemetery than any other single shrub. You all know it. We planted it first fifteen years ago and it did not seem hardy. I had my doubts about making a success of it, but of later years it seems to stand transplanting and to be as successful as any shrub we have. Its wonderful display of flowers lasting from August until October makes it a most desirable shrub.

The Weigela (Diervilla), after several varieties failing, I finally get the rosea which has proved very hardy, at least a few specimens of it have. It is one of our most attractive shrubs when it is in bloom.

Of the elders, we have the golden leaved, the common, the red berried, and the cut leaved. The first three are hardy, the cut leaved is not. It winter kills so badly and comes again so slowly that I will not plant any more of it unless I get a hardier variety. (See correction under sumach.)

The Robinia hispida, or moss locust, is one of our most valuable shrubs, beautiful in foliage and very beautiful when in full bloom and it blooms occasionally during the summer. The chief time of blooming, however, being the latter part of May and early June.

Of the dogwoods, we have the Cornus paniculata, which is native and abundant throughout the state and to a certain extent in the cemetery. The stolonifera, which is the wild red, is also native there. The sanguinea, or European red, is more attractive and hardier I think than our native wild red, and we have also the sanguinea variegated leaved. This latter, on account of its variegated foliage, almost white with green stripes in it, I like very much.

Of the prunus we have the triloba, or double flowering plum, the tomentosa, which is not as good as the triloba. The triloba, when in full bloom, is a most beautiful sight. It blooms before the leaves come out almost. The Pissardi, which winter kills so easily and comes so slowly that it is not worth our while to plant it and the Japonica or flowering almond, both pink and white which are fairly hardy, but it is safe to protect them.

We have the caragana or Siberian pea tree, which is very hardy and can be trained either to a dense shrub or a small tree. It has dense soft foliage, of a delicate green color and has a delicate yellow blossom, forming a very pleasant combination when it is in full bloom.
The Rosa rugosa is one of our most valuable shrubs, both red and white. The flowers, the foliage, and the fruit all deserve special attention. It blooms abundantly in June and occasionally all summer.
Of the sumach, we have the common, native variety, quite abundant in the cemetery; the staghorn, which is larger and better in some respects, and the cut leaved, which is good but not hardy. I think the comment that I made a moment ago in reference to the cut leaved elder was out of place. I referred then to the cut leaved sumach. The cut leaved elder kills back to the ground, but it comes so vigorously that it is a satisfactory shrub to plant. We have some that were cut to the ground this spring that have now some canes seven or eight feet in length. We have another bed in the cemetery of the cut leaved elder with a border of Spirea callosa about it. They both kill to the ground every winter or nearly so, but they come back vigorously and in July or early August we have a bed standing about four or five feet high with a border of pink Spireas around it of considerable height, The cut leaved sumach kills so badly and comes so slowly that I do not consider it worth my while to try it.

The purple fringe (Rhus cotinus) variety of the sumach is very handsome in the fall, the color of the leaves comparing somewhat favorably with the black haw and is one of the most handsome shrubs we have, in its full colors. The peculiarity of the flower also makes it attractive in the spring. It is only about half hardy.

The prickly ash is native to a certain extent in our vicinity, and is very good for hedges, etc.

The Euonymus we have three varieties of (the alatus, the atropurpureus, and the Europaeus), all good and hardy and very satisfactory, the foliage taking a place about equal with the purple fringe and the black haw for beauty in the fall. Their fruit is especially ornamental.

Of the flowering currant we have the common yellow and the Alpine; both hardy and satisfactory.

The snowberry (Symphoricarpus racernosus) is hardy and satisfactory for a small shrub, the white fruit on it, being somewhat attractive. The Indian currant or Symphoricarpus vulgaris is somewhat similar to the snowberry.

The barberry we have in the purple leaved, green leaved and Thunberg varieties. I consider the purple leaved the hardiest of the three. They are all quite satisfactory.

The buckthorn (Rhamnus catharticus) is very hardy and suitable for certain locations.

The buffalo berry (Shepherdia argentea) is good and hardy. The pistillate variety when in full fruit is very handsome. This grows to a large shrub or small tree, if you plant it in single specimens and trim it up.

The Tamarix amurensis is good but only half hardy.

The Eleagnus longipes is good but winter kills badly, and it comes     so slowly that I have given up trying it.

The sand cherry (Cerasus purnila) is a small shrub with quite large fruit and native in the vicinity of St. Paul along the river banks.

The Desmodium penduliflorum dies to the ground every winter but comes rapidly from the root and its soft foliage and small pink flowers which appear in September make, it very attractive to plant in certain places. Around the bases of large trees, for instance, it seems to do particularly well.

The Hypericum Moserianum dies to the ground every winter, but comes rapidly from the root and its yellow flowers at this season of the year, when it is coming in bloom, is quite odd, quite different from anything else we have. It continues to bloom until killed by frost.

The Deutzia, pride of Rochester, we have only tried last year and this year. It has not yet proved a success.

The Forsythia intermedia was planted last year and bloomed to a small extent this spring. We have not had these long enough for me to be able to tell you much about them.

In addition to this list of 140 varieties of trees and shrubs, we have about fifteen varieties of the hardier roses, most of which require covering during the winter and fifteen varieties of evergreens.

I might add that I have tried Altheas, Japan maples, the Judas tree, the Ginkgo, the Virgilia lutea and the imperial cut leaved alder, none of which has .proved hardy.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 18th Annual Convention
Held at Chicago, IL
August 23, 24 and 25, 1904