Garrya elliptica. COAST SILKTASSEL. Coast Ranges

GARRYACEAE (Silktassel family)

Native in the immediate neighborhood, for example at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, silktassel is a desirable shrub or small tree that should be planted more freely. The tassels are clusters of catkins many inches long that festoon the plants in winter. Male and female kinds can be distinguished, on separate plants, the male strings being longer. Both kinds are constructed as strings of bells. White woolly berries with bitter purple juice ripen in summer. The oval leaves are about 2 inches long, have wavy edges, are green on top and woolly underneath. Silktassel was collected in Oregon and published in 1834 by David Douglas (of Douglas fir fame) and has been grown in England ever since. Seen on Lomita Drive at the edge of the New Guinea Garden across from Harmony House and at the berm on Santa Teresa Street near Governor’s Avenue, silktassel is worthy of respect as an ancient member of one of only four plant families not found outside North America, a circumstance probably connected with the Chicxulub meteorite of 65 million years ago. Another specimen is in the stairwell to the lower level of Mitchell Earth Sciences, on the side facing Panama Mall.

Illus. right: staminate flowers from George B. Sudworth. Forest Trees of the Pacific Slope. USDA, 1907. Click for full image.

Illustrations (links open new windows): Garrya elliptica

Additions/Revisions: The Santa Teresa berm also has plantings of California native Rhamnus californica, Carpentaria californica, and Fremontodendron californicum. There is a shrubby silktassel bush on the west side of Kingscote, in the ivy above the lawn.

Name derivation, genus | species: named for Nicholas Garry of the Hudson's Bay Company who was an assistant of David Douglas in his explorations of the Pacific Northwest | elliptical, about twice as long as wide, from California Plant Names

Related material: More information Jasper Ridge's flora.

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