Blepharocalyx cruckshanksii (Hook. & Arn.) Nied.

Common names

Temu

Article sources

New Trees

Shrub or tree to 20 m, 0.4 m dbh. Bark smooth, reddish brown. Branchlets often four-angled, glabrous or with sparse, whitish dichotomous hairs. Leaves evergreen, opposite, leathery and aromatic, 1.7–5.5(–8) × 0.8–3 cm, elliptic to oblong or oblanceolate, both surfaces largely glabrous, secondary veins indistinct or up to 10 on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex obtuse or emarginate; petiole 0.2–0.5 cm long, somewhat pubescent. Inflorescence axillary, peduncle 1–4.5 cm long, densely pubescent or glabrous, bearing a dichasium with 3–15 flowers. Flowers hermaphrodite, white, aromatic; calyx open in bud, persisting until fruit maturity; petals membranous; stamens ~90–140. Fruit globose, 0.85–1 cm diameter, purple. Flowering December to February, fruiting March (Chile). Rodríguez R. et al. 1983, Landrum 1986. Distribution ARGENTINA: Neuquén, Rio Negro; CHILE: Bío-Bío, Coquimbo, Araucanía, Los Lagos, Maule, O’Higgins, Santiago, Valparaíso. Habitat Humid forest at about 400 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8. Conservation status Lower Risk, though ongoing habitat destruction may threaten this species in the future. Illustration Rodríguez R. et al. 1983; NT175, NT524.

Blepharocalyx cruckshanksii – perhaps a slightly marginal species for inclusion in this book – starts life as a dense shrub and slowly makes a thicker trunk as it becomes larger and develops into a rounded low tree. A smooth reddish brown bark covers the trunk, or trunks, rather like the bark of its better-known relative Luma apiculata, to which it is comparable in hardiness (Gardner & Hechenleitner 2005). Like Luma, it smothers itself in a mass of creamy white flowers in summer. The leaves are dark green, turning red as they senesce.

The first introduction of B. cruckshanksii was by Harold Comber in 1927, and it persists in cultivation from that time, but collections have also been made during more recent expeditions to Chile by teams from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (Gardner & Hechenleitner 2005). Progeny from these are now well established in the Scottish botanical gardens and elsewhere. A plant at Logan dating from 1973 (presumably a Comber derivative) is however only a broad shrub, 3–4 m tall. It is available commercially, and is certainly a choice plant where a small evergreen tree or large shrub is wanted in situations protected from cold winds. Also in circulation is the so-called cultivar ‘Heaven Scent’, but this is probably no more than a selling name for a plant indistinguishable from the norm (Gardner & Hechenleitner 2005).

Blepharocalyx cruckshanksii flowering prolifically at Logan, where it has grown for many years but is reluctant to form a tree. Image R. Unwin.

Genus

Blepharocalyx

Other species in the genus