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  • Author or Editor: Roger Kjelgren x
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Although salinity is becoming an increasing concern for landscape plants in many areas of the West, few studies have been carried out to evaluate salinity responses of ornamental plants, especially herbaceous perennials. We investigated salinity tolerance of four traditionally grown and four Intermountain West native ornamental herbaceous perennials. Penstemo×mexicali `Red Rocks', Leucanthemum×uperbum `Alaska', Echinacea purpurea, Lavandula angustifolia, Geranium viscosissimum, Eriogonum jamesii, Penstemon palmeri, and Mirabilismultiflora were irrigated with water containing a mixture of 2 CaCl2: 1 NaCl at salinity levels of 0.33 (tap water control), 2.2, 5.4, and 8.3 dS·m-1 for 8 weeks. Growth, visual quality, and gas exchange were assessed. Mirabilis multiflora and L.×uperbum `Alaska' showed high salt tolerance based on visual quality. No noticeable leaf necrosis was observed for either species at any salinity level. However, over the 8-week period, growth rates for L. superbumwere reduced by 35%, 58%, and 72% compared to the control for the 2.2, 5.4, and 8.3 dS·m-1 salinity levels, respectively. The decrease in growth did not reduce visual quality. Growth rates for M. multiflora were slightly higher than the control for the 2.2 and 5.4 dS·m-1 salinity levels and dropped about 20% at the highest salinity level. Echinaceapurpureashowed the lowest tolerance to salinity, as evidenced by substantial margin burn at all salinity levels as well as high mortality; all plants in the highest salinity treatment died.

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We investigated drought responses of Echinacea purpurea, Gaillardia aristata, Lavandula angustifolia, Leucanthemum ×uperbum `Alaska', Penstemonbarbatus`Rondo', and Penstemo×mexicali `Red Rocks' established in a 10-gal pot-in-pot system in northern Utah. Plants were irrigated at frequencies of 1, 2, or 4 weeks between June and Sept. 2004. Osmotic potential, gas exchange, visual quality, leaf area, and dry biomass were assessed. In a confined root zone, P. barbatusshowed the greatest tolerance to drought, avoiding desiccation by increasing root: shoot ratio and decreasing transpiration as water became more limiting. Plants maintained high visual quality throughout the study and experienced little wilt, burn, or dieback. However, P. barbatus above-ground biomass was reduced by 15% for the 2-week treatment and by 40% for the 4-week treatment. Alternatively, G. aristata and L. superbum displayed drought avoidance mechanisms, dying back when water was limiting and resprouting after they were watered. Above-ground biomass declined by 50% and 84% for G. aristata and 47% and 99% for L. superbum, respectively, for the 2- and 4-week treatments. Root mass was affected similarly for both species. However, transpiration remained high for all treatment levels. Leaf burn and reduction in above- and below-ground biomass were also evident for E. purpurea at the 2- and 4-week treatments, but results were not as pronounced as for G. aristata and L. superbum. Overall, P. barbatusexhibited the greatest drought tolerance while maintaining an acceptable appearance. G. aristata, contrary to expectations, did not exhibit drought tolerance with a confined rooting volume, suggesting that it avoids drought in landscapes by means of deep rooting.

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Although transplanted trees typically establish and grow without incident in frequently irrigated turfgrass, their performance in precisely irrigated turfgrass in an arid climate is not known. We investigated the effect of precision irrigation scheduling on growth and water relations of balled-and-burlapped littleleaf linden (Tilia cordata Mill. `Greenspire') planted in buffalograss (Buchloë dactyloides [Nutt.] Engelm. `Tatanka') and kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.). Over 2 years, trees in turfgrass were irrigated either by frequent replacement based on local reference evapotranspiration, or precision irrigated by estimating depletion of soil water to the point of incipient water stress for each turfgrass species. Predawn leaf water potential and stomatal conductance of trees were measured during first-year establishment, and predawn leaf water potential was measured during a mid-season water-deficit period during the second year. Trunk diameter growth and total tree leaf area were measured at the end of each year. Values of predawn leaf water potential and stomatal conductance of trees in precision-irrigated buffalograss were lower (–0.65 MPa, 25.3 mmol·m–2·s–1) than those of trees in the other treatments near the end of the first growing season. The longer interval between precision irrigations resulted in mild water stress, but was not manifested in growth differences among trees across treatments during the first season. During the water-deficit period of the second year, there was no evidence of stress among the trees regardless of treatment. At the end of the second season, total leaf area of trees grown in precision-irrigated kentucky bluegrass (1.10 ± 0.34 m2) was 46% of that of trees grown in buffalograss (2.39 ± 0.82 m2) that were irrigated frequently. Trunk diameter growth of trees in frequently irrigated kentucky bluegrass (1.91 ± 2.65 mm) was 29% of that of the trees grown in buffalograss (6.68 ± 1.68 mm), regardless of irrigation treatment, suggesting a competition effect from kentucky bluegrass. We conclude that frequent irrigation of balled-and-burlapped trees in turfgrass, particularly buffalograss, is more conducive to tree health during establishment than is maximizing the interval between turfgrass irrigation. Regardless of irrigation schedule, kentucky bluegrass appears to impact tree growth severely during establishment in an arid climate.

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The herbaceous perennial species in the genus Sphaeralcea have desirable drought tolerance and aesthetics with potential for low-water use landscapes in the Intermountain West. However, taxonomy of these species is ambiguous, which leads to decreased consumer confidence in the native plant nursery industry. The goal of this study was to test and clarify morphological and genetic differentiation among four putative Sphaeralcea species. Morphological characteristics of the type specimens were used as species references in canonical variate analysis to generate a classification model. This model was then used to assign putative species names to herbarium voucher specimens and to field-collected voucher specimens to clarify genetic variation among species. Field specimens were also classified using Bayesian cluster analyses of amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) genotypes. Sphaeralcea coccinea (Nutt.) Rydb. and S. grossulariifolia (Hook. & Arn.) Rydb. formed a composite group morphologically and genetically distinct from the S. munroana (Douglas) Spach and S. parvifolia A. Nelson composite group. Each composite group displayed genetic isolation by geographic distance. Also, morphological traits of S. munroana and S. parvifolia correlated to geographic distance. Taken together these results suggest that our samples represent two sympatric yet reproductively isolated groups. Distinguishing between these two Sphaeralcea composite groups can create greater consumer confidence in plant material developed for use in Intermountain West low-water landscaping.

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The potential of bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum) as a small, water-conserving landscape tree for the western United States is limited by the selection of superior accessions from a morphologically diverse gene pool and the ability to propagate wild plants in a nursery environment. Superior accessions were selected based primarily on red fall color. Aerial digital images taken during peak fall color in 2007 and 2008 were synchronized with flight global positioning system (GPS) track files using digital image editor software and visually compared with corresponding satellite images to determine the exact latitude and longitude of selected trees on the ground. Trees were physically located using GPS technology then visually evaluated for initial selection. Criteria included fall color, habitat, relative disease and insect resistance, bud quality, and plant form. From 56 observed trees of interest, six were selected for propagation. Through time-course experiments using multistemmed, bigtooth maple seedling rootstocks in a coppiced stoolbed, the optimum time for chip budding scions of wild accessions in northern Utah was determined to be July through mid-August. Further evaluation of accessions for use in the landscape industry is required.

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Shepherdia rotundifolia Parry (roundleaf buffaloberry), a shrub endemic to the U.S. Colorado Plateau high desert, has aesthetic and drought tolerance qualities desirable for low-water urban landscapes. However, slow growth and too often fatal sensitivity to wet or disturbed soil stymies nursery production and urban landscape use. The goal of this study was to create an interspecific hybrid between the evergreen-xeric S. rotundifolia and its widely adapted, fast-growing, deciduous relative Shepherdia argentea (silver buffaloberry) distributed in western North America riparian habitats. Genetics and leaf morphology of the resulting S. argentea × S. rotundifolia hybrid are described and compared with the parents, as well as hybrid gas exchange as a reasonable proxy for growth rate and potential tolerance of poor soil. Hybrid genotypes were heterogenous, but contained an intermediate and equal contribution of alleles from genetically heterogenous parent populations. Leaf morphology traits were also intermediate between both parents. Aesthetic leaf qualities (silver-blue color and revolute margins) sought from S. rotundifolia were conserved in all offspring. However, gas exchange responses varied widely between the two surviving hybrids. Both hybrids showed greater tolerance of wet, fertile substrate—and promise for use in low-water landscapes—than S. rotundifolia. However, one hybrid conserved faster growth, and by inference possibly greater tolerance of wet or disturbed soil, from S. argentea, while the opposite was observed in the second hybrid. Following botanical nomenclature, we named this hybrid Shepherdia ×utahensis.

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We investigated if salt tolerance can be inferred from observable cues based on a woody species’ native habitat and leaf traits. Such inferences could improve species selection for urban landscapes constrained by soils irrigated with reclaimed water. We studied the C3 tree species Acer grandidentatum Nutt. (canyon maple; xeric-non-saline habitat) that was hypothesized to have some degree of salt tolerance based on its semiarid but non-saline native habitat. We compared it with A. macrophyllum Pursh. (bigleaf maple) from mesic/riparian-non-saline habitats with much larger leaves and Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehnh. (eucalyptus/red gum) from mesic-saline habitats with schlerophyllous evergreen leaves. Five levels of increasing salt concentrations (non-saline control to 12 dS·m−1) were applied over 5 weeks to container-grown seedling trees in two separate studies, one in summer and the other in fall. We monitored leaf damage, gas exchange, and hydric behavior as measures of tree performance for 3 weeks after target salinity levels were reached. Eucalyptus was the most salt-tolerant among the species. At all elevated salinity levels, eucalyptus excluded salt from its root zone, unlike either maple species. Eucalyptus maintained intact, undamaged leaves with no effect on photosynthesis but with minor reductions in stomatal conductance (g S). Conversely, bigleaf maple suffered increasing leaf damage, nearly defoliated at the highest levels, with decreasing gas exchange as salt concentration increased. Canyon maple leaves were not damaged and gas exchange was minimally affected at 3 dS·m−1 but showed increasing damage at higher salt concentration. Salt-tolerant eucalyptus and riparian bigleaf maple framed canyon maple’s moderate salt tolerance up to 3 dS·m−1 that appears related to seasonal soil drying in its semiarid native habitat. These results highlight the potential to infer a degree of salt tolerance from either native habitat or known drought tolerance in selecting plant species for urban landscapes limited by soil salinity or brackish irrigation water. Observable cues such as xeri-morphic leaf traits may also provide visual evidence of salt tolerance.

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