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Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f.

Modern name

Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f.


T. forrestii Loes.

A deciduous scandent shrub from 10 to 40 ft high in the wild; young shoots often long and unbranched, angular, downy. Leaves alternate, oval or ovate, mostly rounded at the base, contracted at the apex to a short, slender point, finely toothed, 2 to 5 in. long, about half as much wide, glabrous above, sometimes downy beneath on part of the midrib and stalk; the stalk 12 in. or less in length. Flowers very small, whitish, produced in a terminal panicle 6 in. long, flower-stalks thickly covered with pale brown down. Fruits three-winged, 58 in. long and wide, the wings thin and membranous like the wings of an elm fruit, chocolate brown and yellowish. Bot. Mag., t. 9488.

Native of S. and E. China, Burma and Formosa; discovered by Wilford, the Kew collector, in 1858. Forrest first met with it in Yunnan in 1906 and from his specimen a new species was described – T. forrestii – by which name the Forrest introductions were at one time known in gardens. It has, however, since been shown that T. forrestii is only a state of the somewhat variable T. wilfordii (see further in the Botanical Magazine).

Forrest sent seeds in 1913, but his F. 18255 from the 1917-19 expedition was more widely distributed; this was from a semi-scandent shrub only 3 to 6 ft high with purplish crimson fruits, found on the Nmai-Salween divide. He also sent seed in 1924 from plants climbing to 20 or 30 ft. In F. 24319 from the Shweli-Salween divide the flowers were ‘grey yellow’ and the fruits dull crimson; in F. 24753 from N.W. of Tengyueh the flowers were creamy white and the fruits brilliant brownish crimson.

The flowers and fruits portrayed in the Botanical Magazine were from a plant at Caerhays in Cornwall. But the species is hardy in S. England and received an Award of Merit in August 1952 for its bronzy crimson fruits when shown by Sir Frederick Stern from his garden at Highdown near Worthing.



Other species in the genus