A few days ago, in the rain which we never take for granted after the last two years of desert-dry, we planted an Escarpment Black Cherry tree, (Prunus serotina var. eximia), a native to the Edwards Plateau in Central Texas and the Rio Grand Plains. The Edwards Plateau formation is bigger than New England, but geographically, it's not a large area for a limited species to call home.
I'm excited about adding the Escarpment Black Cherry because it's a (small) step in preserving a disappearing species. And it's beautiful and a wildlife 'two-fer'. Lovely foliage with panicles of white butterfly-attracting flowers from March through November, followed by fruit for birds and wildlife.
The trees are rare in the wild because deer love them. As a result, it's limited in the Hill Country to the sides of cliffs and bluffs too hard for deer to browse. We fenced our baby as soon as it was in the ground.
In good circumstances, Escarpment Black Cherry is reported to grow 35-50 feet. I don't expect it to get big on our site. Our slope is modest but the soil isn't soil, it's rocks with bits of organic matter in between. Full sun and no irrigation, so after my Escarpment Black Cherry is established, it will have to live on what falls from the sky. The same as the two Desert Willows and the Apache Plume on this slope.
The Lady Bird plant database says Escarpment Black Cherry prefers moist, well-drained soil. I'm sure that's true. Almost any tree in it's right mind prefers moist, well-drained soil. But David Will, the horticultulist who grew my tree, knows more about native plants than almost anyone and he says the tree will do fine in this spot. He's been right about everything else on our acre so we're trusting him on this too.
I asked David for one of these trees a few years ago. He didn't have one, or a source for one; I had to wait until he grew it. Eighteen months later, drought-driven-deer raided his nursery. My tree was eaten. I let go of the hope of bringing this bit of the Hill Country home. After last summer, I'd given up hope anyway on planting in our yard.
Then last August, we had rain. And again in September and October and November and December. Now in January and it looks like the first week of February too.
The wildflower seeds I put out in the autumns of 2007 and 2008, the ones that didn't come up because the ground was hard and shriveled, have grown a baby-green carpet at the front of our lot.
Spring will riot across our place in a month or two. And I have hope again. Up the slope beyond the driveway is an Escarpment Black Cherry tree that says so.
Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.