Distylium racemosum and D. myricoides – Isu tree
Distylium is an evergreen shrub from China, a member of the witchhazel family. While there are twelve species listed, only two are generally encountered in the USA. At SFA gardens, both have been bullet proof shrubs, with a history of maintaining clean foliage in our tough climate – even after the record heat and drought of 2010 and 2011. It’s endured long heat waves with many days over 110oF – and has come through some pretty harsh winters without a blemish (single digits). It’s true Distylium isn’t going to win the color award at a plant show. With petalless flowers and short racemes, the red stamens make the show, and while rarely dramatic, they do provide some late spring interest. As a specimen or green screen, this species is underutilized.
‘Mr. Ishi’s variegated’ remains one of our favorites, a long ago gift from the nurserymen Mr. Ishi. It sports a unique variegation trait. New growth is white with slivers of pink undertones which evolves into a webbing of green and white netting, which eventually fades into the green as the summer approaches. If new growth is good in the early fall, the same thing happens. It’s kind of a subtle beacon in the Ruby M. Mize Azalea garden. We have a variety called ‘Guppy’ that’s been at SFA for many years and it’s still a strong dwarf. A Piroche-form looks good and enjoys strong horizontal branching, although its now a small tree. There are some interesting hybrids we are testing but they’re new in the garden. ‘Vintage Jade’, ‘Blue Cascade’, and ‘Emerald Heights’. They are seedlings from a cross of D. myricoides X D. racemosum, all Mike Dirr introductions.
David Creech, Director of SFA Gardens