N fix 1: Maakia amurensis

The rare, unusual, and elusive are famous for offering extreme qualities in one area or another, but usually come with a catch, some pathetic weakness or obnoxious strength that makes you think twice before heading out on the search to get them.

Maackia_amurensis wiki
Photo credit: Wikepedia

Maakia amurensis, despite its rarity, extreme qualities of weather tolerance, excellent ability to fix nitrogen, seems to show no drawbacks.

Maakia is the namesake of the Russian naturalist explorer Karlovich Maack, who discovered the plant near the amur river near the border of Siberia and China in the 19th century.

Maackia_amurensis oanat.se
The leaves of maakia in spring are very pretty. Click for photo source.

As you might guess, growing on the border of Siberia, Maakia is hardy to usda zone 3 –plenty hardy for most areas of the world. It also tolerates heat, and flooding, to the point that many laud it for lining blacktop city streets like locust trees.

It’s attractive too. The leaves first unfurling in spring glisten a beautiful silver like frosted white flowers, its true, white, pea shaped flowers coming out to play much later in July. Yet another point for Maackia because very few trees bloom then.

Perhaps it’s only drawback, Maakia can, in good situations, grow as tall as 49 feet. In average conditions, and harsh conditions, maakia only grows to 20, perhaps 30 feet. Being a nitrogen fixer, it ought to be cut back periodically to mulch its system anyway.

For this reason I wouldn’t consider the characteristic an eminent drawback so much as a possible bonus. Certainly such a tall tree would be useful among the closed canopy of a nut grove, filling a niche that few others can.  On my sun beaten hill though, I assume it will only reach 20 feet –if I even let it get that tall.

Photo from hgtvgardens.com

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