“The Seven-Son Flower”(SSF) has to be one of my top 5 trees for the residential landscape. I grade very harshly on the best because the need to have either 4 season interest, or another characteristic so powerful . . . the tree becomes a must have in the designed landscape.
A small tree only 15′-20′ high in Zone 5 and maybe a 10′-12′ foot spread means H. miconiodes will have a small footprint on the typical suburban landscape. Great cranky branching, long leaf open habit with just a little pruning sets this tree off and we haven’t even got to the best part and there are many best parts.
Clusters of fragrant white flowers appear ‘late summer’ they’re beautiful and they last for several weeks. The smell is great and when you can site the tree to take advantage of this fragrance all the better.
Here’s where things start to come together the leaf, the fragrant flower, and look at that trunk-which only gets better and better over time. The exfoliation of the bark is beautiful. SSF is close to Lagerstromeia indica “Crape Myrtle” and Acer griseum “paperbark maple” in terms of bark interest in small trees, but there is more . . . Even the story behind Hepatocodium m. is a good one. From the ONLA plant selection page:
Hardy from USDA zones 5 through 8, Heptacodium is native to eastern China (Zhejiang Province) where it is rare. In fact, all the plants currently in cultivation in the U.S. are from a single plant in the Hangzhou Botanical Garden, the seed being first introduced in 1980.
From the Arnold Arboretum site where the tree was 1st brought to the U.S in, I believe 1917 and nothing much happened. However all SSF now available were part of the seeds brought back from the 1980 trip to China . . . which was the 1st trip to Chna since 1949 to do any collecting:
H. miconioides was introduced to North America by the Arnold Arboretum immediately following the 1980 Sino-American Botanical Expedition to Hubei Province.
As I understand it there are now more SSF growing in the U.S. than anywhere else in the World, this includes China. In my reading I got the idea that this tree no longer occurs naturally in China. . . what a shame, and to top it off when talking about this great tree . . . I’m willing to bet the average Landscape Contractor could not identify SSF.
In the fall another spectacular display the rosey red calyces replace those white flowers. These calyces remain most of the fall putting on another good show. here’s a tip for you-if, if you can get some late day back lighting the red calyces put on a great show. It’s the calyces and not a change of leaf color that make the fall show and; of course, the bark which carries on throughout the winter. Did I mention there were no known diseases or pest . . . I hadn’t? Well I am now.
I was personally introduced to this tree by the late-great plantsman Dr. J. C. Raulston from the North Carolina State Arboretum. Dr. Daulston was my favorite to go hear lecture. In an hour he would flash slides of 90 different species that the audience had little or no knowledge of and he would just rattle off the information-never saw him with any notes-ever.
If you are/were into this type of thing it was mind-boggling and inspiring at the same time. If you have stayed with me this long I have 2 links to pages you might enjoy. 1st; Urban Trees for use under Utility Lines, it’s a great resource document for any designer. 2nd; is a Arboretum newsletter for the J.C.Raulston Arboretum home at NC State. It’s about fall color.
Finally the are going to have to store some of those seeds for posterity, Ice Ages, Global Warming, etc. Well they got the place to make it happen-someday soon.
Finally, finally . . . are you trying to figure out a way to store and organize all those great pages from the net I keep sending you to, including HTML and images, links, etc.? Say no more . . . I have a suggestion. I use the free version of Evernote and am very happy about that.
Acknowledgments to the Missouri Botanical Garden and Arrowood Nursery for most of the images.