Thursday, September 2, 2010

Daphniphyllum macropodum..

There are so many great plants that we see only in public and collector's gardens.Some have ridiculously specialized requirements, some are almost impossible to propagate, and others grow so slowly they are next to impossible to incorporate into a planting plan.Others though could be valuable additions to the palette of woody landscape plants..Daphniphyllum macropodum should definitely be more widely available commercially and in more gardens.Its easily grown in average soil and deciduous shade and easily propagated by stem cuttings. Though typically listed as a USDA Zone 7-9 plant there is increasing anecdotal evidence of its surviving at least in the warmer parts of Zone 6.

I first met this plant in the early 1990's at the US National Arboretum. I was the China Valley gardener and while we didn't have any specimens in my areas, one valley over at the base of a north-facing slope were (and are still) some wonderful specimens. It was love at first sight. 

Beautiful bold evergreen foliage superficially resembles that of Rhododendrons but without the issues of borers, weevils, and plant killing phytophthora.Actually, in my twenty year acquaintance I haven't noticed any pest or disease problems A quick glance suggest some exotic version of the common houseplant Schefflera. Although the literature observes that Daphniphyllum may atain arboreal proportions in it's native haunts, our plants,rangin in age from 20 to 30 year, are mounded shrubs between 10 and 15 feet high and wide. Rich green 8" evergreen leaves held atop purple/red petioles are arrayed gracefully on mounded shrubs. The flowers aren't much but the fruit is wonderful' the species is dioecious so you'll need a male and a female, but it's worth the effort.The deep blue drupes (on the female plants) mounded atop the red petioles, accented with a glaucous bloom are outstandingly beautiful.

Daphniphyllum is a species widespread throughout eastern Asia; the Flora of China lists 10 species. At the US National Arboretum we have accessions of Daphniphyllum macropodum from Japan, China, and Korea by a who's who of Arboretum plant explorers. John Creech and my friend Skip March from southern Japan in 1976, Barry Yinger from South Korea in 1985, and Lawrence Lee from the Huangshan Mountains, Anhui Provence China in 1988. I am proud to have planted these last plants near the op of a north-facing slope in China Valley in 1991.

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