Emmenopterys henryi

Emmenopterys henryi (340)

Location in the Gardens:

Season of interest:

  • Spring and summer

Description of plant:

Deciduous spreading tree. Large pointed, dark green leaves are bronze-purple when young. Clusters of white flowers (some bearing a large white bract) are rarely produced except in hot summers.

Ideal growing conditions and habitat:

Frost hardy, but young growth may be damaged by late frost. Needs full sun and deep fertile, well-drained soil.

Weather extremes are thought to trigger flowering. A cold snowy winter and a hot summer is ideal.

Country of origin:

  • South-west China

Highdown history:

From 'A Chalk Garden' by Sir Frederick Stern:

“At the back of the carpenterias Emmenopterys henryi has become a small tree but has never yet flowered in England, although it was found by Augustine Henry and introduced in 1907 and is quite hardy. The leaves which come out bronze, then turn a bronze-green, make a good background for flowering shrubs. This flowered for the first time in Europe at the Villa Taranto, Pallanza Italy in 1971”

Other interesting information:

Latin name meaning:

  • Emmenopterys - meaning lasting wing. One of the calyx lobes becomes large and like a wing
  • Henryi - In honour of Augustine Henry (1857-1930) Irish medical man, plant-collector and dendrologist, who made vast collections in central China and Formosa and later became professor of forestry

Described by renowned plant hunter Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson as “one of the most strikingly beautiful trees of the Chinese forests”.

The tree is rare in cultivation, and extremely shy to flower. The first recorded flowering in the UK was at Wakehurst Place, Sussex in 1987, but they had to wait for a further 23 years before it flowered again in 2010. It has also flowered twice at Borde Hill, again in Sussex.

Emmenopterys henryi was introduced to cultivation in the UK by Ernest Wilson in 1907 and named in honour of the plant hunter, Augustine Henry, who first found the tree in central China in 1887.

Emmenopterys henryi (744)

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