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Hypericum forrestii (Chittenden) N. Robson

Modern name

Hypericum forrestii (Chitt.) N.Robson


H. patulum var. forrestii Chittenden; H. patulum var. henryi Hort., in part, not Bean; H. patulum f. forrestii (Chittenden) Rehd.; H. calcaratum Hort.

An almost deciduous shrub 5 to 6 ft high, with erect main stems and horizontal or drooping branchlets, which are slightly flattened at the ends and under the flowers but not lined or edged. Leaves short-stalked, lanceolate or ovate, 78 to 134 in. long, 12 to 34 in. wide, obtuse and mucronate at the apex, rounded to cuneate at the base. Flowers golden yellow, saucer-shaped, 112 to 212 in. across, borne singly or in three- or five-flowered cymes; flower-buds broadly ovoid. Sepals broad-ovate or broad-elliptic, usually entire, rounded or broadly obtuse and rarely shortly mucronate at the apex. Stamens in five bundles, about half as long as the petals. Styles free, about half as long as the ovary (from two-fifths to three-fifths as long).

Native of China in Yunnan and W. Szechwan, of the Assam Himalaya and of upper Burma; introduced by Forrest about 1906 and again in greater quantity in 1917-19. It was originally described by Chittenden as H. patulum var. forrestii but was raised to specific rank by Dr Robson in 1970. It is sometimes seen in gardens under the name H. patulum var. henryi, but the hypericum of S. Yunnan described by Bean under that name (see H. beanii, p. 406) differs in its narrower sepals which are acute or acuminate at the apex and in its longer styles and stamens.

Although not so much planted in gardens, nor so common in the trade, as it was before the coming of ‘Hidcote’, H. forrestii is still worthy of cultivation. It does not have such a long flowering season as ‘Hidcote’, but the bronzy red young fruits are attractive and the older leaves colour orange and red as autumn approaches. It makes an elegant small specimen.

H. ‘Hidcote’. – An almost evergreen shrub up to 5 ft high and 8 ft across. Leaves lanceolate, dark green above, pale and fairly conspicuously net-veined beneath. Flowers shallowly saucer-shaped, golden yellow, up to 3 in. wide, borne continuously from midsummer to October in few-flowered cymes. Sepals as in H. forrestii. Stamens about one-third as long as the petals, with orange anthers. Styles as long as the ovary or slightly longer. Fruits rarely or never set.

This famous hypericum first came to notice in the garden at Hidcote Manor created by Major Lawrence Johnston. It is possible that it was raised from seeds collected by him during his visit to China in the 1920s. But according to the late Sir Frederick Stern (A Chalk Garden (1960), p. 127) the Hidcote plants were raised from cuttings received from W. Miller-Christy of Watergate near Chichester. If this is so, the likelihood of ‘Hidcote’ being of wild origin is much lessened. Dr Robson considers that it is very possibly a hybrid of garden origin between H. forrestii and H. calycinum (Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 95, p. 487).

‘Hidcote’ is quite hardy, though the younger wood may be cut by frost.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

This species is also in cultivation from Wilson 4338, collected in western Szechwan during Wilson’s second expedition for the Arnold Arboretum (1910), and probably distributed as H. hookerianum. A recent reintroduction is Lancaster 1048 from the Erlan Shan, south-west of Chengdu, in western Szechwan (1981).

H. ‘Hidcote’. – See further in this supplement, in alphabetical order.

† H. × dummeri N. Robson – Suspecting that the parentage of ‘Hidcote’ was H. forrestii × H. calycinum, Dr Robson asked Peter Dummer, propagator to Messrs Hillier, to hybridise these two species, and the same cross was made by Mr D. Walker. Although the resulting plants have some of the characters of ‘Hidcote’, none agrees with it perfectly. For a description see Robson, op. cit. (1985), p. 287. The type-clone has been named ‘Peter Dummer’.



Other species in the genus