Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Edgeworthia, I just can't pass you by


How can you go past something call the Oriental Paper Bush? Well I do, most days, but that's because it's on the way from my office to the administration building at Kew Gardens.

As it happens, while it was in bud and flower I struggled to get past this particular Edgeworthia chrysantha without trying to take a better photograph than I'd taken the last time I'd tried to pass by.


It has a very pretty flower with a very pretty smell, and creates a wonderful sense of expectation in early winter as the drooping bunches of flowers ready themselves to open. Which is all very well but for me at least it was difficult to photograph. The colours are not bright and the bunches of flowers head off in obtuse directions. Still it did give me a good excuse to stop and smell the flowers.

Oriental Paper Bush is one of those common names that makes complete sense: the bark is used to make fancy paper in Japan, including at one stage banknotes. Kew's website says you can tie the stems into a knot but that wouldn't be an appropriate thing to try. Better to pass by.

Once the flowers have straightened up and opened you can see the family resemblances. The cluster of narrow, hairy flowers is very like the Australian Riceflower, Pimelea. I worked on this genus for the Flora of Victoria, and it belongs to the same plant family, Thymelaeaceae. My fellow Brits would be more familiar another genus in this family, Daphne.

The muted flower colour is very Pimelea and Daphne too, although both have exceptions. And so does Edgeworthia chrysantha. I just happened to be out at the RHS Garden at Wisley on the weekend and saw the last few flowers on this cultivar 'Red Dragon'.


The Oriental Paper Bush at Kew has now finished flowering. I'm sure it began to look like it was going to flower before Christmas (the following picture was taken in January). That's a lot of times to try and pass by.


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