Tag Archives: summer flowering trees

Plant Collector: Corymbia ficifolia

Techically Corymbia ficifolia but more commonly known as the flowering gum

Techically Corymbia ficifolia but more commonly known as the flowering gum

When is a gum tree not a eucalyptus? When it is a flowering gum, apparently. This came as something of a surprise to us. It is no longer Eucalyptus ficifolia but is now named Corymbia ficifolia. It is still a very close relative and will likely continue to be referred to in the grouping of eucalypts or gums. The vast majority of eucalypts are Australian. This one hails from a small area a relatively long way to the south east of Perth. While its natural habitat means it is accustomed to poor, sandy soils it has proven both popular and reliable as a street tree internationally – anywhere which is not consistently humid or suffering from extreme frosts. This specimen is just on the end of one of our shelter belts and remains relatively anonymous until it suddenly bursts into glorious bloom.

As it is notoriously difficult to root from cutting or to graft, flowering gums are almost always produced from seed which means there will be variation. They take several years to flower and it is pot luck what colour they will be. While orange and red shades are the most common, they can also be close to white and the full gamut of pinks. They are rated as small trees, taking a long time to get much past 3 or 4 metres tall. As trees go, these are a pretty easy-care variety and are available for sale in NZ.

According to Wikipedia, Hamilton’s very own Princes Street boasts the largest known single-trunked specimen of Corymbia ficifolia in the world. I could not see it on Google street view so I wonder if it is still there. Did somebody fell the world’s biggest?

Postscript: My Waikato Times features editor sent out a photographer, armed with my photo, and I am delighted to report that the world’s largest, single-trunked specimen is still present and correct.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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.