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Woody Ornamentals Thriving in Midwest

By Linda McElreath
January 29, 2002

Eleven commercially available plants are receiving favorable evaluations by cooperators participating in a project to evaluate ornamental shrubs and trees.

The project, called the NC-7 Regional Woody Ornamental Trials, is a collaborative effort between the Agricultural Research Service and state agricultural experiment stations at more than 30 sites located primarily in the north-central United States, New England and Alaska. Since 1954, the goal of this project has been to identify trees and shrubs that grow well in those regions.

Each year, collaborators collect and submit data to ARS horticulturist Mark P. Widrlechner and his technician, A. Paul Ovrom, who coordinate the trials at ARS’ North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station (NCRPIS) in Ames, Iowa. Data are collected for 10 years for each plant.

The top 11 accessions, which have good ornamental characteristics and are now available commercially, include nine shrubs: Nugget, a cultivar of the ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius); Sakakawea, a cultivar of the silver buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea); Kentucky wisteria (Wisteria frutescens var. macrostachya); Cardinal and Ruby, cultivars of red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea); Indigo, a cultivar of silky dogwood (Cornus amonum); Konza, a cultivar of fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica); Tara, a hybrid barberry (Berberis koreana x thunbergii) sold under the trademark Emerald Carousel; and White Knight hybrid weigela (Weigela florida). Two notable trees are western larch (Larix occidentalis) and Little King river birch (Betula nigra), sold under the trademark Fox Valley.

Information on these accessions and many others can be found at the NC-7 Trials web site:

Future plans include testing more woody plants with good adaptation and ornamental merit obtained from populations native to the central portion of the United States.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.

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