Wakehurst’s rare Chinese tree is in bloom

Emmenopteris Henryii tree in bloom at Wakehurst SUS-180823-101721001
Emmenopteris Henryii tree in bloom at Wakehurst SUS-180823-101721001

A rare Chinese tree is now in full bloom at Wakehurst after an incredible 31 year wait.

The delicate white flowers of the Emmenopteris Henryii tree have just started unfurling at Wakehurst, part of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in Ardingly.

Emmenopteris Henryii tree in bloom SUS-180823-101732001

Emmenopteris Henryii tree in bloom SUS-180823-101732001

It was back in 1987 that a full flowering was last recorded.

Andrew Mash, gardens supervisor, said that the 100-year-old tree had a handful of flowers near the top 10 years ago, but this is the first time all the blossoms are blooming at the same time.

Spokesperson for Wakehurst said: “We have had a very cold February and March followed by soaring temperatures throughout May and June and these are the most favourable conditions to bring out the flowers.

“It’s caused great excitement, it’s been like waiting for a baby to be born.

“Each day we have been checking the tree to see if there are any changes.

“The buds have been tightly closed for weeks and we did start to wonder whether it was ever going to happen.”

The tree, which is rare in cultivation, was introduced to the UK by renowned plant hunter Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson and he described it as ‘one of the most strikingly beautiful trees of the Chinese forests’.

The spectacular flowers arise in clusters, each one star-shaped, fragrant and surrounded by large, white elliptic bracts that flutter in the slightest breeze.

The flowers seem to be breaking from the top of the tree and working their way down the domed canopy.

Before the flower at Wakehurst this month, there were only 5 recordings of it flowering in UK. Cambridge Botanic Garden, Wakehurst (2008 but only a handful of flowers) and Borde Hill.