Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The large Emmenopterys henryi in the Asian Collection at the USNA are flowering heavily

And they're spicily fragrant too!

I imagine the heat had something to do with the heavy flowering; these trees, grown from seed collected by L. Lee in 1988,  have flowered before, but never so heavily or so near the ground. I was able to walk up to trusses and photograph them at eye level. It's interesting how similar the flowers are to Pinckneya; Stefan's first response on hearing they were flowering was to recommend that cross. Alas the Pinckneya is out of flower these last few weeks. Next year we'll have to save pollen.

Biological systems are so complex that it's difficult to draw useful conclusions from isolated experiences, but here's what I find noteworthy about the year preceding this unprecedentedly heavy flowering: last year was a good year generally for plants with uniformly abundant moisture excepting one six week period in the summer; last winter, despite much snow, was fairly mild; we had no frosts in March (unheard of) or April (uncommon); excepting a handful of decent days it has been ridiculously hot these past 4-5 weeks. Who knows whether any of these factors individually or in combination contributed to all this flowering. When I read accounts of flowering Emmenoptery, heat does seem to be a common factor.

Of all the plants that Lawrence Lee, ex-curator of the Asian Collections USNA, collected, Emmenopterys henryi, was, as I recall, the one he was proudest of. In the early 1990s, his plants would have been among only a very few specimens in North America. Though it is far from common now it isn't exactly rare. When I returned to this collection two years ago I was amazed that plants that I remembered as saplings, barely taller than I was, now soared 60,70, 80 feet into the air. And they were barely 20 years old. I have to suspect that our plants are among the largest in cultivation in North America.

I coveted this plant when I first met it; I'm a sucker for red petioles and incised veins. Right now I'm in love with Rhamnus/Frangula caroliniana, no red petioles, but those same deepset veins and wonderful red fruit. Anyway, Emmenopterys seemed like a good plant for a small garden; at that time the literature pretty generally described it as a small to medium-sized tree. Somehow I managed to resist it when it began showing up at the more esoteric mail-order nurseries. It's good to be reunited after so many years.


Christine said...

Okay, I'm a dumb dumb. I did read this post, so you'd think that I would have remembered it when I spoke to you about it this afternoon. Sorry! Brain fart. Senility is not just for the aged! And, even more stupid, I forgot to go down there and look at it on my walk this afternoon. Will shoot for Friday. I realize it may be a day late and a dollar short, but it least it will be in my brain better, and perhaps I'll remember for next year. Ha!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the flowering! It must be wonderful!