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Stuartia sinensis Rehd. & Wils.

Modern name

Stewartia sinensis Rehder & E.H. Wilson


S. gemmata Chien & Cheng

A deciduous small or medium-sized tree; bark smooth, peeling (see further below); young shoots clothed at first with fine hairs. Leaves oval or ovate-oblong, 112 to 4 in. long, 58 to 134 in. wide, tapered at the apex, cuneate at the base, toothed, at first hairy on both surfaces (more densely so above) and at the margin, becoming almost glabrous, bright green on both sides; stalk hairy, 18 to 14 in. long. Flowers solitary in the leaf-axils, white, fragrant, 112 to 2 in. across on pedicels up to 38 in. long; bracts ovate or ovate-oblong, about as long as the sepals. Stamens united in the lower third. Ovary downy. Capsule ovoid, five-angled and five-beaked, about 34 in. wide. Bot. Mag., t. 8778.

Native of central and eastern China; introduced by Wilson about 1901 from W. Hupeh, when collecting for Messrs Veitch. It is not remarkable for its flowers, but few hardy trees have a more beautiful bark, which, in its summer condition, is as smooth as alabaster and the colour of weathered sandstone; in autumn it turns purple, later brown, and peels away in translucent scrolls, exposing the fresh inner coating. It is perfectly hardy at Kew, where there are two trees showing the characteristic bark. But the finest examples recorded all grow in woodland conditions in Sussex: Tilgate Park, Crawley, 46 × 314 ft, a superb specimen (1974); Borde Hill, Sussex, pl. 1912, 38 × 234 ft (1973); Wakehurst Place, 36 × 314 ft at 3 ft (1969).

S. sinensis is nearly allied to S. monadelpha, which is, however, a native of Japan only. Rehder and Wilson observe, moreover, that the “capsule of S. sinensis is the largest in the genus (45 in. in diameter), that of S. monadelpha is the smallest” (13 in. in diameter). Plantae Wilsonionae, Vol. II, p. 396.

S. rostrata Spongberg – Formerly confused with S. sinensis, this species differs in its shallowly furrowed bark; smaller winter-buds; subglobose capsules downy at the base only, abruptly beaked and with four seeds in each chamber (against ovoid with a tapered beak and downy throughout, with two-seeded chambers in S. sinensis). Native of E. China; described in 1974 (Journ. Arn. Arb., Vol. 55, pp. 198-202). It was introduced to the USA from the Lushan Botanic Garden in 1936, as S. sinensis, but is not known to be in cultivation in Britain.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 50 × 414 ft at 4 ft (1984); Sheffield Park, Sussex, 52 × 234 ft (1984); Tilgate Park, Sussex, 46 × 312 ft (1984); Borde Hill, Sussex, 42 × 3 ft at 4 ft (1978); Trewithen, Cornwall, 50 × 3 + 214 ft (1985).



Other species in the genus