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2014 Woody Plant Introductions Announced

Two new woody plant selections were introduced by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and the NDSU Research Foundation this year. They include Cinnamon Curls™ Dwarf Korean Birch, easily identified by its exfoliating bark with cinnamon colored undersides curling in strips, and Northern Empress™ Japanese Elm, a cultivar that has outstanding burgundy fall color and will aid in diversifying the availability of elm selections returning to the landscape. The introductions were developed by the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program, under the direction of Dr. Todd West.

Two new woody plant selections were introduced by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and the NDSU Research Foundation this year. They include Cinnamon Curls™ Dwarf Korean Birch and Northern Empress™ Japanese Elm. The selections were developed by the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program, under the direction of Dr. Todd West.

Cinnamon Curls™ Dwarf Korean Birch

Cinnamon Curls™ (Betula costata ‘CinnDak’) is a distinctive dwarf selection of Korean birch, which is slow growing and has a rounded, compact growth habit. A notable characteristic is its attractive creamy white exfoliating bark with cinnamon colored undersides curling in strips. This feature is noticeable in all seasons but especially during the winter months when the trunk and branches are fully exposed.

At maturity, Cinnamon Curls™ stands nine feet tall with a spread of nine feet. Its foliage is bright green in summer months, changing to bright golden-yellow fall coloration. It prefers full sun to very light shade, performs best in well-drained soil and is tolerant of higher pH soils. It is hardy to USDA climatic zone 4a.

This tree has very good insect and disease resistance. Although bronze birch borer is present in the area, it has not affected the 28 year-old Cinnamon Curls™, while many other species and cultivars in close proximity have been attacked and killed. No diseases have been noted.

Recommended use for this tree selection is in limited space landscapes such as business and home entryways, patios, and small outdoor living space areas where an attractive focal point plant is desired.

Northern Empress™ Japanese Elm

Northern Empress™ (Ulmus davidiana var. japonica ‘Burgundy Glow’) is a very hardy small to medium sized elm with a rounded crown, open branching, and attractive summer and fall foliage. A unique, small statured elm selection with excellent dependable burgundy-red fall coloration, it adds a useful elm cultivar to diversify the availability of elm selections returning to the landscape. There is only one other elm cultivar, ‘Frontier’, that has burgundy fall color, which is only hardy to USDA climatic zone 5.

At maturity, Northern Empress™ stands 28 feet tall and has a spread of 24 feet. It is much smaller than the species, which can reach up to 100 feet tall at maturity. Its foliage is medium green during the summer months. Fall foliage changes from green to apricot-orange to burgundy-red before leaf drop. This tree selection prefers full sun and well drained soils. It is pH adaptable and tolerant of higher pH soils. It has shown moderate to good drought tolerance and is hardy into USDA climatic zone 3.

This tree has good insect and disease resistance. It is minimally affected by black leaf spot of elm and possesses inherent resistance to elm leaf beetles and Dutch Elm Disease (DED).

Recommended use for this tree is as a small to medium sized ornamental tree in urban landscape planting areas. Size and form permit use in smaller homeowner and business landscapes, parks, and boulevard plantings. This is especially relevant where available space or overhead power lines are a concern and where hardiness of other elm cultivars may be an issue.

About the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program

The NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program has been serving the Northern Great Plains for 60 years, beginning germplasm trial evaluations in 1954. In 1974, NDSU purchased an 80-acre farm near Absaraka, ND, to be established as the NDSU Horticulture Research Farm and began trial plantings that fall. This research farm provides ideal horticultural soil for evaluation and breeding projects for North Dakota. Approximately 45 acres of this farm is used for evaluation, selection and breeding of woody ornamental plants.

The main portion of the research farm is the center 35-acre plot dedicated as the NDSU Dale E. Herman Research Arboretum. Named after NDSU Professor Emeritus Dr. Dale E. Herman, who developed the program for nearly 40 years, the research arboretum is the most extensive collection of woody ornamental plants in North Dakota and the Northern Great Plains. It is a valuable resource for teaching, research and educational use.

NDSU woody plant introductions are currently being propagated for sale by commercial wholesale firms in four countries: Australia, Canada, England, and the United States (14 states, including 35 nurseries). This project has introduced 53 superior woody plants for production and sale with increased disease tolerance and winter hardiness for landscapes. The first introduction from the program (1986) was a flower bud hardy Forsythia hybrid, ‘Meadowlark’. This was a collaborative release with South Dakota State University, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and the USDA North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station.

In 2012, several breeding programs were initiated focusing on magnolia, lilac, maple hybridizing and mutagenic breeding of several shrub species. The NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program also serves as the northern site for the American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S), launched in spring 2014.

The goals of the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program are selection, evaluation and introduction of hardy superior woody plants for the landscape industry. For more information about the program, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/plantsciences/research/woody-plants/.

Source: Todd West, 701-231-6476, todd.p.west@ndsu.edu
Editor: Kamie Beeson, 701-231-7123, kamie.a.beeson@ndsu.edu

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