Botany Photo of the Day
In science, beauty. In beauty, science. Daily.

February 16, 2016: Botany Photo of the Day will return this spring with a new format similar to the new UBC Botanical Garden web site. In the meantime, please enjoy the restored content!

Carrierea calycina

Carrierea calycina

Guest-blogging today is Douglas Justice -- Daniel.

Carrierea calycina is a rarely cultivated deciduous or semi-evergreen tree native to southern China known for its large, glossy leaves and extraordinary flowers, which are comprised of large, creamy, cup-shaped, densely pubescent calyses (there are no petals), surrounding either fuzzy, spindle-shaped carpels (on female trees) or masses of stamens (on male trees). Until very recently, it was only known in the West from a very few old plants in British gardens. These were originally derived from seed collected by E.H. “Chinese” Wilson in the early part of the last century, and although Wilson thought the species had great promise as a garden plant, his optimism evidently did not prove well-founded (according to the commentary in W.J Bean's seminal Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles). Recently, however, Peter Wharton, Curator of the David C. Lam Asian Garden recollected this species in the Dashahe Cathaya Reserve in Guizhou, China. Seed of this collection was disseminated widely, both locally and in the UK.

Plants of Carrierea calycina in the Asian Garden at UBC (planted in 1995) have not flowered, though they are growing very strongly and look wonderful. One of the local seed recipients was Francisca Darts, who raised a fine specimen in her garden in South Surrey (near Vancouver). Her tree, a multi-stemmed specimen planted in the open, flowered heavily this year, to the delight of all who saw it, and showed itself to be a female. We recently learned that a female plant in the Hampshire garden of esteemed horticulturist and plant collector Roy Lancaster, flowered last spring, as did a male plant in a garden two counties to the east (in Kent). We learned this from Roy himself, as he was visiting UBC during his stay for the Hardy Plant Society Study Weekend in Vancouver and saw our plants. We hope that when our plants flower at UBC that we'll have a suitable pair close enough to transfer pollen successfully. These handsome trees appear to be quite adaptable in this area, although their hardiness has not been thoroughly tested. Perhaps Wilson's reputation can be salvaged, yet.


every day a new plant and an amateur horticulturist and botanist recovering from surgery and not being able to work in my tiny garden much, these photos make my day every day. thank you, DJ


Thanks for the accolades, but they surely should be redirected to Daniel Mosquin, the photographer and architect of this excellent blog. Like so many people, I don't get out as often as I might, and I really look forward to the photo of the day. I hope your recovery is rapid and complete, and that you're back enjoying the joys of horticulture in the garden soon.

I should add that despite the photograph being nothing special (a branch immersed in a vase isn't my typical style), this is the second time that Botany Photo of the Day has featured a plant that is noteworthy because few people outside of Asia have seen it in flower. The other was this entry on Kadsura interior.

The December 2007 PLANTSMAN magazine had an illustrated article on this tree written by P. Wharton and R. Lancaster.

Glancing at the above article I realized I have one of these in my garden. It was acquired from the volunteer greenhouse at the Seattle arboretum under the obviously wrong name of another Chinese tree producing compound leaves.

My specimen has now flowered yearly for some time, that is probably how I could tell it was this species when I made my earlier comment. I believe it sets fruits, without crossing with another example - pointed pods appear after the bloom. However, I do not know if they are filled as the tree is a two-trunked beanpole with leaves etc. up at the top, out of reach, I suppose I could use a pole pruner and a ladder to clip them off.

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