This just in from Garvan Woodland Gardens over on Lake Hamilton:
Rare, Subtropical Tree Blooms
At Garvan Woodland Gardens
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Not many living things in the Natural State – be it humans, animals, or plants – can tolerate without some consequence, the all-too-frequent hot, humid days that are indicative of an Arkansas summer. Yet, at the masterfully landscaped Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, there is one unusual tree that appears to be thriving in the extreme conditions, while its neighboring plants drop their blooms and curl their leaves in protest of the scorching sun and oppressive heat. So rare is the Emmenopterys henryi tree that, until recently, it was the only specimen known to have bloomed in cultivation in the U.S. and remains one of the few in outdoor cultivation to have flowered.
Planted in the early 1980s by garden benefactress, Verna Cook Garvan, the “henryi” tree blooms inconspicuously near her beloved rose garden, where hundreds of tourists pass by daily unaware they are observing a rare, deciduous plant that may be almost as illusive as the endangered, if not extinct, ivory-billed woodpecker, that is reported to have been sighted in east Arkansas in 2005.
Native to Burma, Thailand, and China, the specimen is related to the gardenia and coffee plant. The white, wing-like bracts (colored leaves) surround a cluster of white to pale yellow, fragrant flowers.
Noted Chinese plant explorer, E. H. Wilson, who discovered the Emmenopterys henryi tree in 1907, regarded it as the finest of all Chinese flowering trees. In his early description of the species, he documented that the pink bracts subtending the flowers, set against dark black-green foliage, turn the Chinese forests pink.
The timber wood of the Emmenopterys henryi tree can be used in the construction of houses and furniture. Unfortunately, due to the disforestation for farming and over-logging in the lower and middle subtropical mountainous regions, as well as low germination ratio, these trees have decreased significantly and are rarely seen.
According to Garvan Woodland Gardens’ resident landscape architect, Bob Byers, the blooms appear in the heat of the summer, usually late July and August.
As if to protect itself from handling by curiosity seekers, the blooms of the Gardens’ Emmenopterys henryi tree are located in the upper tier of the 15’ tree and are easily overlooked. “This is only the third time I have seen it bloom in my ten years of directing landscape projects at Garvan Woodland Gardens,” remarked Byers. “If anyone wants to catch a glimpse of this infrequent, flowering tree, now is the time.”
Garvan Woodland Gardens, a department of the University of Arkansas School of Architecture, is sculpted from a 210-acre, heavily forested peninsula on Lake Hamilton and surrounded by 4 ½ miles of pristine shoreline. Admission prices are $7 for adults; $6 for seniors (55 and older); $4 for children (ages 6 to 12); and free for children ages 5 and younger. Located at 550 Arkridge Road, the Gardens are open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.