Sunday, June 01, 2008

Stewartia rostrata Blooms for the First Time

I bought three small Stewartia (also spelled Stuartia) plants last year as a consolation when I missed buying a large specimen Stewartia pseudocamellia at a plant auction. Of the three different kinds I bought, the Stewartia rostrata (aka, beaked or upright Stewartia) has grown twice as fast as the others, S. pseudocamellia and S. monodelpha. I was overjoyed when I saw what looked like buds on the 2 1/2 feet tall shrub about a month ago but being a half empty kind of guy I thought nah, it couldn't be until I saw a bit of white showing from the bud covering. I find it interesting that the bottom petal is much more frilled than the other four petals and almost orchid-like in this quality. The reddish pink blush with dark spots are interesting as well and only appears prominently on one of the petals.

Several websites list S. rostrata as a rare Eastern Chinese species. Apparently it resembles our native S. ovata. The flowers are purported to be 2" in diameter but our first bloom was only 1 1/2" across. Not a large flower but if you like Camellias, you'll probably like Stewartias.

Stewartias belong to the same Theaceae family as the Camellias and tea plant, C. sinensis but are deciduous unlike the evergreen Camellias.

Here's an interesting tidbit on the spelling of Stewartias from Wikipedia:
"The genus was named in 1753 by Carolus Linnaeus to honour John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. Owing to a transcription error, Linnaeus was given the name as 'Stewart',[3] and consequently spelled the name "Stewartia" (and continued to do so in all his subsequent publications). Some botanists and horticulturists, mainly in the past[7][8][9] but still widely in the UK[1][2][3][4] have interpreted Art. 60.1 of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature to consider "Stewartia" an orthographical error to be corrected to Stuartia, but this spelling has not found wide acceptance outside of Europe in recent times. During the 19th century, the spelling Stuartia was "almost universally" used.[3] However, the original spelling "Stewartia" has been accepted, in large part because it continued to be accepted by Linnaeus himself, by virtually all systematic botanists in recent treatments of the family [10][11] and genus [12][13][5][14] as well as in numerous influential horticultural publications.[15]"


Anonymous Jan said...

Lovely flowers. Stewartias have been recommended for my area, but I have never seen them in local nurseries. After seeing yours, I might have to look around more for one.

Always Growing

2:59 AM  
Blogger Digital Flower Pictures said...

Stewartia's are one of my favorite trees. They are very underused in the garden around here. I hadn't seen this type before and also didn't know about the spelling.

3:25 AM  
Blogger Les, Zone 8a said...

I am not familiar with S. rostrata, is it fussy? We usually encounter pseudocamellia more than any other species, and they can be frightfully exxpensive.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Jan,
I have not seen very many other Stewartias. I first saw one, actually three 6 feet tall specimens at a plant auction. Unfortunately they sold all three as a lot and I was bidding against a guy who was determined to buy them regardless of cost. I think I saw one in the neighborhood last year but it was some distance into the yard and I didn't have the nerve to walk up to the shrub.

I bought my stewartias from an online nursery.


Hi Chris,

Underused is right. As I mentioned to Jan, besides my own plants, I've seen only three other Pseudocamellias which weren't blooming and possibly another S. pseudocamellia in the neighborhood. I have never seen them offered in the local nurseries. The online nursery had 3 different types and I bought them all ;)


Hi Les,
Of the three I have, the S. rostrata is the most vigorous it has more than doubled it's size in a year and is the first to bloom. If I remember correctly, I bought my shrubs very cheaply from Big Dipper Farm which apparently is closed until after June 6th. I think I bought the foot tall plants for $15 each. I remember that figure because that's what I bid for each of the S. pseudos at the auction which I lost and thought "now I have three different ones for the price of one of the large S. pseudos" (actually I would have had to buy three for $135).

4:09 AM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

How cool that you got to see one of your Stewartias in bloom this year - they're something I've read about but never lived where they'd grow. I ran into an anecdote about one of the kinds you're growing when I was working on the most recent book club post for May Dreams Carol.

In 1966 Elizabeth Lawrence talked about Stewartia and recounted a conversation with Henry Hohman of the Kingsville Nursery in Maryland:

"...I said I had discarded Stewartia monadelpha because the small white flowers are hidden by the foliage. He was horrified. He took me to a nearby tree, and pushing aside the branches showed me the tawny bark. In winter, he said, it is the most beautiful thing in the nursery.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

9:34 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Annie,
Since they were all so small when they arrived (not more than a foot tall) I expected a long wait for any flowers. I was pleasantly surprised when the rostrata had several buds this year. Upon closer inspection of the S. pseudocamellia, I spotted what look like a bud! The plant is quite small so I'm really surprised it can form a flower but I'm quite excited that two Stewartias will be blooming this year. Elizabeth Lawrence's monodelpha though is the smallest of the bunch and I see no evidence of any buds. Funny about the incident she recounted. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I wonder how common that experience is with gardeners - to get rid of a plant only to find out too late that it is/was a gem. I've been extremely busy lately but will stop by your blog soon.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Roses and Lilacs said...

Beautiful photos. I've enjoyed visiting your site.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Thank you Roses and Lilacs. I briefly scanned your beautiful blog and will stop by for a more careful look as soon as I can.
Thanks for stopping by.

6:22 PM  
Blogger kate smudges said...

Ki, these are just beautiful. I wish that I could grow these. The flowers do remind me of your Camellias. I enjoyed reading about how they were named ... along with the wrong spelling!

6:04 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kate,
Isn't it wonderful how much esoteric information (misinformation)is available these days - right at your fingertips. I'm like you. I wish I could grow many zone 7-10 interesting plants but seeing our camellias barely making it trough the winters makes me sad I even tried to grow inappropriate plants for our zone. Thanks for your comment.

8:43 AM  

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