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6 Mar 2020

A rare flower blooms in the Blue Mountains

Emmenopterys henryi trees are particularly renowned for two things, it is one of the most strikingly beautiful trees of Chinese forests and often doesn’t bloom in its first 30 years.

This tree is a bit of a mystery because there can be many decades between flowering and it's thought that only extreme weather conditions trigger blooming. One tree in England was over 75 years old before it flowered and of the many Emmenopterys henryi trees planted throughout the United Kingdom only been eight have been recorded flowering.

Emmenopterys henryi trees
Emmenopterys henryi trees are extremely shy to flower.

Two special trees

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah is lucky to have two specimens of Emmenopterys henryi in the Living Collection for plant enthusiasts to see. One is in the Plant Explorer’s Walk and like many other Emmenopterys henryi trees, this has never flowered. The other is next to the Jungle Lodge and it caused a stir with our visitors and horticulturists when it first came into bloom. We also welcomed many botanists who travelled the length of the country to see it.

A rare flower blooms in the Blue Mountains
A rare flower blooms in the Blue Mountains.

Few and far between

This summer our tree is flowering again, and although admittedly not profusely we are still very excited. It appears that recent weather conditions trigged this flowering and it is possible that the frequency of flowering will increase over the next few years as temperatures increase worldwide.  

Emmenopterys henryi comes from southern and central China and Vietnam and is the only species in the genus. Botanist and plant collector Ernest Wilson brought it into cultivation but it was the Irish botanist Augustine Henry who first supplied scientific specimens. Daniel Oliver, who was the keeper of the Kew herbarium, named it in his honour.

Emmenopterys is a combination of the Greek words ‘emmeno’ and ‘pteron’ and relates to a distinctive long bract that turns a pinkish red in Autumn and stays on the tree. In the wild trees can grow in excess of 30 metres tall and can live for hundreds of years.

You can explore the rare and unique plants in our Living Collection with one of our passionate volunteer guides or a self-guided tour.

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