Heptacodium miconioides, Seven-son Flower

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Exfoliating Bark

There are not many times I have a “hear the angels sing moment” during an onsite evaluation at a homeowner’s property, but it happened to me just last week.

There it was, around the corner, by a moss-covered gazebo, a beautiful Heptacodium miconioides.

Later, upon my return to their property, I took a closer look and photos.  I confirmed…, “Yes, it is a Heptacodium — and lucky me, it is in full bloom right now.”

This plant, native to China and a deciduous shrub, can grow or be trained into the size of a small tree.  It can reach 15-20 feet tall with a spread of 8 to 10 feet.  The specimen I was adoring at that moment is the size of a glorious mature tree.  It has been here for a while, I thought.

Heptacodium’s common name, Seven-son Flower, comes from the feature of seven flowers being born in clusters.  Tiny and white, they are positioned at tips of wirey pedicels. If you look closely at this photo, you can see seven closed flower buds on one, while others are open. Delicate and fragrant, the flowers are simply elegant due to how they are positioned and carried above nice, new looking foliage.

Seven-son Flower

Heptacodium’s foliage expands early in spring, is soft to dark green, shaped ovate and long, reaching a slight pointy tip.  The veins in the center run down while the side veins run out causing a cupped effect on some.  Handsome, fresh and clean, the foliage makes a perfect partner to the elegant, white, late season blooming flowers.

Then comes the bark supporting it all above.  It exfoliates.  The peeling of the bark on this is layered in strips on multi-branched stems, showing a lighter toned inner bark.  The strips remind me of something, but I can’t place what – almost like a raffia or ribbon.  You almost want to take a piece and peel it away, but of course, I certainly would not.  At least not at a client’s site!

This plant is hardy to Zones 5 to 8, and I have seen it at a local nursery near their pond gardens, a perfect location for it appreciates moist to well-drained soils.  In fact, it was when I was very new to the job, and a customer visiting the store asked me what it was.  I remember, I rushed everywhere trying to find out – and ran up to the landscape manager who finally id’ed it for me.  He later told me the customer was extremely impressed that I made every effort to find out what it was.  At the time, I had never seen it before.

My excitement for this shrub is just as intense now as it was over five years ago when I saw it that first time.  And I know it will continue to intrique me, for in the fall, more features will appear – the sepals turn reddish.  This tree, rare and often difficult to find in nurseries, also attracts butterflies.

Handsome Leaves

It enjoys sunny locations, but will tolerate some shade – as this one did.  It “was” located in a shady location with some dappled sun, but this season, it has been receiving the sunlight it has yearned for, due to the removal of several broken trees from last year’s October snowstorm.  In some ways, the storm last year provided improvements to gardens – and it certainly did for this Heptacodium!

Some more information:

Family:  Caprifoliaceae

Habit:  Upright, loose, …as Dirr says, “Almost artistic”

Texture:  To me, coarse on bark, bold on leaves, soft on flowers

Value:  Rare, Elegant, and Classic (Coincidentally, this my client’s preferred style too)

Season of Interest:  You know if you read this blog, spring to winter!  All year-round.

Thank you for visiting, Cathy T.

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3 thoughts on “Heptacodium miconioides, Seven-son Flower

    • I only know of the Latin name noted, not sure about Chinese. If you are trying to locate the exact tree, it is best to use the Latin name for it will match you up to the right plant. Common names are sometimes mis-matched and can direct you to the wrong plant. Wish I could give you more direction on the Chinese naming question. Cathy T

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