Plant Collector: Schima wallichii subsp. noronhae (probably)

Schima, probably noronhae

I went on a bit of a search for the accurate species name of this tree in flower here, trying to sort out whether it was Schima wallichii or Schima noronhae. The naming of plants can be a fluid affair with reclassification happening often but schimas are more like quicksand than fluid – described by the most recent, authoritative tome on trees (New Trees) as simply a mess. What we do know is that it is that schima are a somewhat tender tree family from subtropical and tropical Asia and this particular specimen is rather large now. We live in a two storied house with reasonably tall gables but this tree is now closer to a third story level.

The little white 5-petalled flowers are pretty enough en masse this week, but it is the new growth at the end of October which I like more. The fresh young leaves are bright lime green and it is like a large beacon in the distance. Soon after the new leaves arrive, it drops all its old leaves in a whoosh. It is an evergreen – it is never totally bare, but most evergreen trees gently shed old leaves all the time, not in one hit. We have a number of schimas here (S.khasiana is even larger) but as far as we can make out, this one is S.noronhae. They belong to the theaceae family and are distant relatives of both camellias and gordonias. Schimas are commonly raised from seed – there don’t appear to be named clones yet though in time, no doubt there will be selections made to be grown by people with plenty of space and very mild conditions.