Weekend Wonders I: From Violet Jelly to Further Frost Bytes

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Here we go with “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”.


Backyard violets harvested for edible landscaping.


Violet Jelly.  Curtis Young’s exquisite violet alert Saturday (http://bygl.osu.edu/index.php/node/1566) was put to immediate use here in northeast Ohio. Years ago, while at Ohio University in Athens, my wife Laura and I read the Euell Gibbons books and collected copious violet blossoms to make violet jelly. Glorious colors and fun to just see on a piece of toast.


Jars of violet jelly
Beautiful violet jelly from the kitchen of Laura Chatfield


VIolet jelly
As you can see, the color of the jelly depends upon the light. What delicateness!


Violet jelly on toast
The flavor of violet jelly is describable: lemon juice and sugar, but oh, so lovely


Yesterday Laura decided to reprise: she collected violet blossoms from our back yard, put about a pint jar’s worth into boiling water – the result was a “cobalt blue” liquid. She then added lemon juice – the acid metamorphosed the elixir to a “ruby-violet” color. Pectin was added.  Sugar was dissolved. Voila Viola.   


Invasive Beauty. Paulownia tomentosa, the empress tree or princess tree, native to areas of Asia, is a species on many “most-hated” plant lists around the world, and it certainly a fast-growing invasive here. It is a prolific seed-producer, and at OSU’s Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, we believe that seeds from one specimen were borne on tornadic winds a decade ago across woods and highways to start anew in the old section of Secrest. Soon popping up like “triffids” the vigorous shoots and huge leaves of young seedlings made themselves abundantly known. 

Paulownia leaves at PSU
Penn State University put the huge young leaves of Paulownia to use in a maintained young seedling garden, Seen here in fall 2017 with Joe Cochran and his big smile


Paulownia in New York City
Paulownia: The tree that grows in Manhattan, and...


Paulownia stems
You can see how tough Paulownia can be, growing here in early March in Manhattan


Without doubt, though, this tree is noticed when it flowers: many calls to Extension offices have come in over the years when someone sees the lavender-purple, dare I say “violet”-hued flowers, and asks, “what is this beautiful tree?”  The Devil Wears Purpla.  Paulownia moves ever northward.


Paulownia flowers
The flowers are beautiful though, shown here from this weekend in Wooster


Paulownia flowers
The lavender and the teddy bear brown, quite gaudy and soft at the same time


Le Gel”, Continued.  So the May 10 frost fallout in northeast Ohio continues, as damage unnoticed or not fully exhibited earlier becomes clearer now. Again, this frost injury is mostly not significant to plant health, but don’t say that to strawberry and cherry and peach growers, for whom financial health will be deeply impacted.


Frosted fothergilla
May-frosted fothergilla at Secrest this year


One thing that we relearn every time frost impacts young plants is that the “frost-free date” is kind of like “hardiness zones”, averages not absolutes. Second, we realize that it is not just how tolerant a plant is of cold temperatures that results in frost damage, but precisely where a particular plant part is in its development when frost arrives, how cold it becomes, and for how long. Sometimes it seems chimerical, but the more we recognize the factors impinging upon this seeming capriciousness, the more we are better informed.


Frost on maackia
Frost on Amur Maackia, May Secrest 2020


Maackia frost
But the underlying stem tissue on this Maackia is fine


A few images of the frost this time: For example, Joe Boggs called me from southwest Ohio the other day and asked how katuratrees fared in northeast Ohio. “Hammered in Cincinnati” quoth Joe, especially weeping katsuratree. Not so in northeast Ohio, saith I, speaking from my backyard perch where they were unaffected. But I did check out Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, and just as Joe said, lots of blackening and discoloration, especially on weeping katsuratrees. My backyard is only 15 miles northeast Of Wooster and probably less than 10 miles northerly, yet, big difference.


Frost on weeping katsuratree
Frost on weeping katsuratree at Secrest this weekend


frost symptoms on katsuratree
This unusual pattern on katsuratree leaves that are frosted is something I have seen in the rare years previous where frost has occurred on katruatree


frost on katsuratree
Sometimes the pattern of frost damage is difficult to explain


no frost injury katsuratree
And here, 10 miles north, no katsuratree frost injury


weeping katsuratree no frost
Including no damage on weeping katsuratree


Weeping katsuratree
Weeping katsuratree foliage


Many maples with tender young foliage were frosted, both in Wooster and the ChatScape: three-flowered maple, certain Japanese maples maples, hedge maple, sycamore maple, and many more. Firs were fine at Secrest, except for a one-year old transplant (possibly an Abies procera) which was apparently just had new growth emerged and was susceptible to damage. In this case damage was probably enough to cost a nurseryman a year of growth. Fothergilla flowering was ruined at Secrest in Wooster; but not in the ChatScape near Doylestown.


frost damage on three-flowered maple
frost damage on three-flowered maple


frost damage on Japanese maple
frost damage on Japanese maple at Secrest


Japanese maple frost damage
Yet still green tissue


Oh by the way, “le gel”  is at least one word for “frost” in French. Désolée. Yet, damage should be temporary.


Final Note: We cannot end with frost injury. So an uplifting image:

Yellow buckeye
Yellow buckeye!