Two sassafras trees, planted side by side.
Planted in the same year, from the same nursery, both were five gallon whips in containers. Both have grown on the hillside for six years now, mingling with maples and oaks and other young trees establishing there.
One looks like a strongly tiered wedding cake of a sapling, bright orange in October. It makes a wonderful view from my kitchen window. In fall it twinkles, looking back at me from between the spruce and holly, very shapely, very structured, and looking like a golden pagoda.
It remains a small sapling after six years.
It is only three feet from its companion on the left, a big green, leafy sassafras twice the size of the little one. They both have the distinctive mitten lobed leaves sassafras are known for, but what different shapes and growth habits! It is most noticeable in fall when the little one colors, and the bigger one remains green.
Really, it is so odd. There are no cultivars of sassafras albidum. There are only species plants. I bought identical ones and planted them at the same time.
The tree on the left, big and green, is about two feet lower than the one on the right. It was planted in a little dip in the rocky scree that made up this hillside when I first began planting a forest to screen the roadside behind.
The pagoda shaped one on the right is a little higher, sitting up above the dip in the hill, but not by much. It, too, is in rocky scree.
The only thing I can think of to explain such different growth patterns is that the bigger tree in the hollow gets more moisture, being in a lower spot that collects any water as it runs off the hillside.
Can that explain this oddity? Could there be such drastically different growth and fall color patterns just from the occasional puddle of water one gets compared to the faster run off the other experiences?
Plants are the weirdest people.