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Hydrangea serratifolia (Hook. & Arn.) Phil. f.

Modern name

Hydrangea serratifolia (Hook. & Arn.) Phil.f.


Cornidia serratifolia Hook. & Arn.; H. integerrima (Hook. & Arn.) Engler; Cornidia integerrima Hook. & Arn.; H. scandens Poepp., not Ser., nor Maxim.

An evergreen climbing shrub growing wild on tall trees and on rocks; young shoots clad with starry down and in the climbing state adhering by aerial roots. Leaves entire, stout and leathery, elliptic or slightly obovate in the adult state, pointed, tapered to cordate at the base, 2 to 6 in. long and 1 to 3 in. wide, distinctly net-veined, dark green and glabrous; stalk from 14 to 134 in. long. Curious small pits often occur in the vein-axils beneath. In the juvenile plants in cultivation the leaves are less than 2 in. long, heart-shaped at the base, and with stalks 14 in. or less long. Inflorescence terminal and axillary, sometimes a columnar panicle as much as 6 in. long and 312 in. wide, sometimes smaller and more rounded, but always made up of numerous small corymbs, each of which is enclosed during the bud-stage in four papery bracts, and in that state are globose and 12 in. or more wide. Normally all the flowers are of the small, fertile type, their most conspicuous feature being the stamens, which are up to 14 in. long; only very rarely are sterile ray-flowers produced. Seed-capsules vase-shaped, 18 in. wide, with the styles persisting at the hollowed apex. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 153.

Native of Chile from Aconcagua to Aysen provinces, and of bordering parts of Argentina, from sea-level to about 5,000 ft. It was first described in 1830 under the invalid name H. scandens, but was probably not cultivated in Britain until H. F. Comber sent home seeds from Chile during his journey in that country and Argentina in 1925-7. It has proved quite hardy on walls sheltered from cold, drying winds. Captain Collingwood Ingram has a plant on the stables cottage at Benenden Grange, Kent, which has reached the top of the chimney and flowers freely. Exhibited by him, the species received an Award of Merit in 1952. It is also hardy at Nymans in Sussex. The flowering shoot figured in the Botanical Magazine was from a plant cultivated at Crarae, Argyll.

As in H. petiolaris the climbing shoots with aerial roots are sterile, flowers being produced only on growths of a bushy nature. In the wild it climbs to a great height; the late Clarence Elliott saw it 50 ft high, and in the southern part of its range in Chile, where the climate is very humid, it is said to attain 100 ft.

Although inferior to H. petiolaris as an ornamental, H. serratifolia is of interest as the only member of the section Cornidia that is hardy in the British climate.

Note: The leaves in this species are normally entire or very slightly denticulate – a character expressed in the name H. integerrima, by which the species has been generally known. In the type of H. serratifolia (Cuming 34 from Chiloe) the leaves are serrate towards the apex, but there seems to be no doubt that only one species is involved. The two species were published (in the genus Cornidia) in the same work and on the same page, but unfortunately, in Hydrangea, the combination H. serratifolia (Hook. & Arn.) Phil, has ten years’ priority over H. integerrima (Hook. & Arn.) Engler, and must be accepted as the correct name of the species, inappropriate though it is.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

In the last paragraph on page 402, it was remarked that H. serratifolia is the only member of the section Cornidia that is hardy in the British climate. This is probably true for the country generally, but another species of the section now in cultivation is the Mexican H. seemanii Riley. This belongs to the subsection Monosegia, in which the inflorescence consists of a single terminal cyme, in contrast to H. serratifolia of the subsection Polysegia, which is characterised by an inflorescence composed of several cymes, arranged one above the other. The flowers in H. seemanii are white, which is unfortunate, since it is closely allied to the beautiful pink-flowered H. oerstedtii and H. peruviana, which range from Costa Rica into northern South America. But in contrast to H. serratifolia, the inflorescences usually contain large sterile florets.

H. seemanii was introduced from Mexico by Neil Treseder and grows in his garden at Falmouth in a shady bed, spreading over the ground like ivy. In nature, however, it is a climber, clinging by adventitious roots. H. seemanii grows up a tree in the Strybing Arboretum, San Francisco, and seeds from this plant were collected by Roy Lancaster in 1985.

In her monograph, Elizabeth McClintock makes the interesting observation that H. seemanii is very similar to H. integrifolia Hayata of Formosa (Taiwan) and the Philippines, which is the only representative of the section Cornidia outside America.



Other species in the genus