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2016 Woody Plant Introduction Announced

A new woody plant selection was introduced by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and the NDSU Research Foundation in 2016. Emerald Beacon™ Tianshan Birch is a distinctive, cold hardy birch selection that grows in a narrowly pyramidal form. The selection was developed by the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program under the direction of Dr. Todd West and research specialist Greg Morgenson.

November 8, 2016

A new woody plant selection, Emerald Beacon™ Tianshan Birch, was introduced by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and the NDSU Research Foundation in 2016. The selection was developed by the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program under the direction of Dr. Todd West and research specialist Greg Morgenson.

Emerald Beacon™ Tianshan Birch

Emerald Beacon™ (Betula tianshanica ‘EmerDak’) is a distinctive, cold hardy birch selection that grows in a narrowly pyramidal form. It sports emerald green foliage throughout the summer and bright golden-yellow foliage in autumn. Its slight exfoliating white bark is extremely showy, adding significant seasonal interest.

At maturity, Emerald Beacon™ stands 30 feet tall with a spread of 12 feet. Summer foliage is of high quality without blemishes resulting from birch leafminer or leaf spot. During summer drought conditions, it exhibits no foliar stress symptoms such as leaf scorch or early leaf drop, which is seen on many other birch species.

This tree prefers full sun exposure to very light shade, a well-drained soil and is tolerant of higher pH levels without chlorosis. It is hardy in USDA climatic zones 4a-6.

Recommended use for Emerald Beacon™ is in limited space landscapes for vertical accent elements or as a specimen tree.

About the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program

The NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program has been serving the Northern Great Plains for over 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 known 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 55 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,
Editor: Kamie Beeson, 701-231-7123,

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