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Seven Son Flower Tree

Written by John James, posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2018

One of our more unusual shrubs, the Seven Son Flower Tree (Heptacodium miconiodes), is now flowering in the Pococke Garden. This deciduous, upright, irregularly sprawling shrub has small white, sweetly scented flowers in late summer and autumn which are enjoyed by butterflies, bees and other insects. These will be followed by persistent pink/maroon calyxes (outer parts of the flower) that may be in turn be followed by red berries.

Other distinct features of this shrub are the way the pairs of prominently veined leaves hang down in a rather architectural fashion to almost form a tube or tunnel, and the pale brown/grey shaggy, peeling papery bark.

This shrub, a member of the Honeysuckle family, originates from China and was discovered in 1907 by Ernest Wilson, where it was found growing on mountain cliffs. Now rare in its native habitat, with only 9 known populations, Hepatacodium micnoniodes is now widely grown worldwide and has earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

As with many common names, the name Seven Son Flower Tree is misleading, since the flowers grow in sixes around a false central bud that never develops into a flower.

Extracts from the plant have been found to have antibacterial properties.