Camptotheca Decne.

Family

Cornaceae (formerly Nyssaceae)

Common names

Happytrees

Article sources

New Trees

There are two species of Camptotheca, and the genus is endemic to China. They are medium-sized deciduous trees with papery, oblong-ovate leaves. The inflorescences are terminal or axillary heads with three bracts. The flowers are 5-merous and pale green, with the stamens mounted on a disc. The fruits are dry, contain a single seed and are winged. They are clustered in globose heads and have a persistent, apical disc. Until recently, only a single species of Camptotheca (C. acuminata) was recognised. However, in 1997 a second species (C. lowreyana S.Y. Li) was described, having ovate-cordate leaves with six to eight pairs of lateral veins (Qin & Chamlong 2005). This is grown at research institutions in Texas, but is not known to be cultivated as an ornamental. A dwarf selection named ‘Katie’ is said to be more cold- and drought-tolerant (Stephen F. Austin State University 2001). Camptotheca lowreyana has become an important element in research efforts into the anti-cancer drugs derived from camptothecins, currently obtained principally from C. acuminata.

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New growth of Camptotheca acuminata is strikingly coloured, but it needs a hot summer to ripen. Image N. Macer.

Species articles