Alniphyllum fortunei (Hemsl.) Makino

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New Trees

Tree to 20 m. Bark greyish brown. Branchlets covered with brown, stellate tomentum. Leaves papery, 5–15(–20) × 4–7(–11) cm, elliptic to obovate, both surfaces covered with brown stellate tomentum, to a greater or lesser degree, 7–12 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins remotely serrate, apex acute to acuminate; petiole 1–2 cm long. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, racemose or paniculate; pedicels 0.4–0.8 cm long. Flowers 1.5–2 cm long; calyx densely grey-pubescent, corolla lobes elliptic, 1–1.5 cm long, white. Capsule oblong to ellipsoid, 1–2.5 cm long, sparsely white-pubescent. Flowering April to July, fruiting August to October (China). Hwang & Grimes 1996. Distribution CHINA: Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang; INDIA; LAOS; MYANMAR; VIETNAM. Habitat Mixed forest between 200 and 2200 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Hwang & Grimes 1996; NT133. Cross-reference K131.

Alniphyllum fortunei is scarce in cultivation – unaccountably, as it has many good qualities. If the problem is that it is tender, hardier provenances should be sought from within its vast range. The trunk is pale yellowish brown or whitish, showing up well in winter. The shape of the leaves is aptly described by their comparison to an Alnus; they are quite thick and borne on red-tinted twigs. The big white flowers are produced in large showy panicles in spring (Hudson 2004). The largest specimen known in cultivation is at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Dorset, 10 m tall from planting in 1990 (Johnson 2007). Plants grown from Shanghai Botanic Garden seed have been in cultivation at Tregrehan since 1993, planted out in 1995 and growing steadily ever since. These are now over 5 m tall, but they are a favourite of squirrels, which chew the bark (T. Hudson, pers. comm. 2006). The species is also grown under glass in some European collections (for example, at Arboretum Freiburg-Günterstal in Germany), and there is a coppicing specimen at the JC Raulston Arboretum.

Alniphyllum fortunei is seldom grown, probably requiring very mild conditions, but its beautiful flowers make it worth the effort. Image Q. Cronk.

Genus

Alniphyllum

Other species in the genus