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When East Meets West


By AndrewR


When two plants from the same family grow close together, cross-pollination may occur and a new plant grows with properties from both parents. This can sometimes be seen in the wild but is more often the result of deliberate work by plant breeders. But what happens when two plants, normally growing hundreds or even thousands of miles apart in the wild are brought together?

The classic case of this is lysichiton or skunk cabbage. L. americanus grows in western North America; it has yellow flowers. Meanwhile, the white flowered L. camtschcensis is doing a similar thing in northeast Asia. Put them together in a garden or breeding ground and a form with pale yellow blooms can appear, the result of a cross between these related, but geographically, distant plants.

The latest in this series of east-meets-west liaisons was on display on a stand at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. For many years, two or three (according to which botanist has the stage) members of the family calycanthus were known in the United States. Each grows to about six feet and carries deep red flowers (or yellow in one variant), reminiscent of a magnolia. About fifty years ago, things took an interesting turn when a ten feet tall deciduous shrub was discovered in woodland in China with similar characteristics but with large white flowers. Initially classified as calycanthus chinensis, this was then given its own family – sinocalycanthus. Twenty years on and some specimens were growing in the United States, mostly in botanical gardens. From then, it was only a matter of time before someone attempted to cross these two families and the rest, as they say, is history. The resulting plant not only flowered within three years of seed germination, it had the larger blooms of the Chinese plant but the colouring of the American ones. Enter sinocalycalycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’. Since then, the cross has been made again and again and plants with yellow, cream and even bi-coloured flowers are now appearing in commerce in the States and a few trickling in to specialist nurseries in the UK as well.

Sinocalycalycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’ on the Burncoose stand at Chelsea

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It's gorgeous !

4 Jun, 2010


Isn't it just amazing? I saw it on the telly and thought...Wow I'd like one of those! Thanks for this Andrew. I can put it on my faves now and not forget it! :)

4 Jun, 2010


Very interesting blog - beautiful colours

4 Jun, 2010


It's been on my 'wants' list for a while but have held off from buying until I can decide on a home for it - putting the horse before the cart for a change!

6 Jun, 2010


I've just planted mine in the garden a few months ago. Fabulous plant. The later flowers seem much richer in colour than the earlier ones too.

14 Nov, 2010


Found it, Andrew, and really enjoyed reading about my new plant.

Thank you for the info.

8 May, 2014

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