Seldom do we see a plant take the market by storm when newly introduced. Without the backing of a million-dollar advertising campaign, plants may take many years to become recognized by even the most avid horticulturists.
Heptacodium miconioides, or seven-son-flower, is a perfect example of a plant that remained unrecognized years after its introduction and is now being rediscovered. It was first collected in 1907. It was n’t until 1916 that a colleague of Wilson ‘s attached a name to the collected specimen. The flower head is referred to as Hepta-seven and -codium.
Heptacodium was forgotten for 65 years. There was a collection of viable seeds in China in 1980. The Arnold Arboretum and the U distributed the seeds. Several botanical institutions and nurseries have a national arboretum. The genus has gained popularity over time. The plant is related to viburnum and forsythia.
Heptacodium is an outstanding specimen plant. It grows as a small tree or large shrub and has a spread of up to 12 feet. Plants can flower in full sun and remain healthy in partial shade. Plants tend to develop a loose habit in harsher conditions.
The glossy leaves emerge in early May. At a time when few other plants are in bloom, creamy white, jasminelike blossoms emerge from the tips of the branches. The blooms persist for several weeks. To maintain this late bloomer ‘s attractive shape, heptacodium must be trimmed during the winter.
The most stunning trait of Heptacodiumarrives after the flowers are spent is their exceptional display. In early fall, the flowers mature and develop small, inconspicuous fruits surrounded by a persistent calyx. Another spectacular, eye-catching display can be seen when the calyces turn a bright cherry red.
Plants offer aesthetic interest even in winter. The bark is a light brown, similar to the river Birch, but lighter in color.
Heptacodiumcan can be found in the Chicago Botanic Garden ‘s Sensory Garden and the Pullman Shade Plant Evaluation Garden. The plants there are trimmed every year to make them look better and to control suckering. Plants flowered consistently each year. Researchers at the Garden have been studying Heptacodium, assessing characteristics such as flowering, fruiting, growth habit, and disease and pest resistance. Plants that have been observed have proven to be cold hardy to temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees below zero.
Heptacodium is still considered a unique plant 15 years after it was released. Heptacodium has the credentials to become an important part of Chicago ‘s gardens if its performance continues to excel.