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Editor's Picks

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Plant Focus

Quercus xjackiana acorns
The hybrid of Q. alba and Q. bicolor

Rare Oak Cuttings Take in Chevithorne Barton

The greenhouse at Chevithorne Barton has a number of half-hardy oaks that have been growing steadily over the years. They have now reached a size that warranted planting out, but before doing so we decided to try to take some cuttings from them, given the risk that planting out entailed.

Q. uxoris in greenhouse
Quercus uxoris in the greenhouse at Chevithorne Barton © James MacEwen

The three targeted oaks, Quercus sagrana1, Q. insignis, and Q. uxoris, were all collected by Allen Coombes (one of them on his honeymoon!): Q. insignis and Q. uxoris in Mexico in 1995, and Q. sagrana in Cuba in 2001.

New leaves on the Quercus sagrana at Chevithorne Barton, accessioned 2002  © James MacEwen

Tom Butler, who previously had been head propagator at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, took the cuttings in October 2018. He left in the spring, and the Head Gardener, Chris McDonald, and his assistant Will Woodman have been looking after them ever since.

New growth on Q. sagrana
New growth on a cutting of Quercus sagrana © James MacEwen

The Q. insignis failed, but the Q. sagrana and Q. uxoris succeeded. For each species, nine cuttings were placed together in one pot. Two Q. sagrana and three Q. uxoris have rooted. The semi-hardwood cuttings had the thickness of a drinking straw and a length of six inches (Q. sagrana and Q. uxoris) or nine inches (Q. uxoris). A single leaf was left on each cutting. The soil used, a mix of loam, perlite and, vermiculite, had good drainage, and the pots were placed on a hot bench.

Q. uxoris cutting
Cutting of Quercus uxoris © James MacEwen

The fact they took so readily from cuttings I found very exciting.

Q. sagrana
Quercus sagrana, propagated from a cutting  © James MacEwen


1 Editor's note: This accession was received as Q. cubana, which was at one time the accepted name. Quercus cubana was published in 1850 by Achille Richard in Ramón de la Sagra's 13-tome Historia física, política y natural de la isla de Cuba (A Physical, Political, and Natural History of Cuba). But Q. sagrana had been validly published in 1842 by Thomas Nuttall, who named it in honor of the same Ramón de la Sagra (according to Nuttall, de la Sagra had discovered it). There has been confusion regarding the correct spelling of the name: the original spelling was Q. sagræana, but it was changed to follow the International Code of Nomenclature, which states that adjectival epithets for personal names ending in -a are formed by adding ‑n- plus the appropriate nominative singular inflection (in this case sagra-na). These rules were not in place when Nuttall published the name, so it was corrected subsequently.