Plant of the Week - Seven-Son Flower

Todays pick is an unknown and not for everyone plant pick…a large shrub / small trees…basic looking during the growing season, but when September rolls around, the flowers and what follows after thatis just spectacular.And, all the pollinators love it for a late source of food.It’s Heptacodium miconioides, or commonly called Seven-Son Flower.The Chicago Botanical Garden best describes it:Although it was first collected in 1907 by E. H. Wilson during an expedition to China, it wasn't until 1916 that a colleague of Wilson's, Alfred Rehder, actually attached a name to the collected specimens. Hepta- means "seven," and -codium refers to the flower head.Then for nearly 65 years, Heptacodium was forgotten. A member of the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family, the plant is related to viburnum and forsythia.Grown as a small tree or large shrub, its multistemmed habit reaches 15 to 25 feet with a spread of up to 12 feet. Plants thrive in full sun but have been known to flower and remain healthy in partial shade. However, in shadier conditions, plants tend to develop a loose, irregular habit.During early May, the glossy leaves emerge and remain attractive throughout the season. In late summer, at a time when few other woody plants are in bloom, creamy white, jasminelike blossoms emerge from the tips of the branches. The blooms are sweetly fragrant and persist for several weeks. While the flowers offer an exceptional display of their own, the most stunning trait of Heptacodium arrives after the flowers are spent. In early fall, the flowers mature and develop small, inconspicuous fruits surrounded by a persistent calyx (the ring of petallike leaves that forms the outer layer of a flower). The calyces turn a bright cherry red, resulting in another spectacular, eye-catching display.Even during winter with flowers and foliage absent, the plants offer aesthetic interest. The bark is a light brown that exfoliates to expose a deeper brown beneath, resembling the river birch, Betula nigra, but lighter in color.