Friday, May 1, 2009

Daphniphyllum macropodum....When I first saw this plant in the Asian Collections in 1991 I loved it

You know what? It's still a good plant. At a quick glance, it looks a lot like a Rhododendron, though the flowers are nowhere near as spectacular. Still, it doesn't have the same issues with fungi and drought that Rhodies do. When I first encountered it I seem to recall that it was considered to be a member of the Euphorbiaceae (it does have milky sap); now it's placed in its own famly, the Daphniphyllaceae. Such is taxonomy.

Anyway, the leaves are evergreen, the fruits are blue-purple, and the petioles are a wonderful red (this trait is seasonal: clearly they are pink now!). If you draw an imaginary horizontal line through the picture, last years leaves and last years fruit will be in the bottom half; above the imaginary line are this year's new leaves and this year's immature fruit.

I wondered 16 years ago and still wonder why this plant hasn't penetrated the retail nursery trade. Hey, it's a shade evergreen that deer don't eat! Of course there is the inherent conservatism of growers but maybe it's also because the hardiness seems uncertain north of USDA Zone 7. The literature suggests zones 7-9 but my own observations make me think it might handle at least a little bit of Zone 6. I have never seen any indication of cold damage and we do have cold winters once in a while. If you are intrigued, it is available from various on-line suppliers.

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