Friday, June 11, 2010

Allbizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate' and the species....we get a lot of questions about these plants

Some plants just don't get any respect and this one must be at the top of the list. I get it farther south. It is a bit invasive from say Richmond all the way to Florida, but not here. Here it seeds about a bit, grows quickly, gets its disease (Mimosa vascular wilt) and dies.

I love the form of the tree, like an Acacia on some tropical savannah, it arches gracefully, arranging its delicately dissected leaves for maximum exposure to the sun. The pink powder-puff flowers have a pleasant fragrance and attract hummingbirds.

Someone asked me today where to buy it and I don't really know. The maroon-leaves variety in the top picture, 'Summer Chocolate' is available in nurseries, but it's pretty expensive. Farther south you see it in nurseries, even a selection or two. Still hereabouts I don't remember ever seeing anything but the dark cultivar. My advice is to locate a mature tree, that's not in a park or arboretum, and dig up a small (1-2') seedling and grow it on. Expect at least two feet of growth per year for a few years. It'll be a tree in no time.

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