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Plant of the month July

Common Name: Spitting Tree

Scientific Name: Anneslea fragrans Wall

Family: Pentaphylacaceae

 

Etymology

Genus:  

Anneslea – named for George Annesley (1770 - 1844), 2nd Earl of Mountnorris

Species:

fragrans - fragrant flowers

Distribution

Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Native Habitat

Forests or thickets on mountain slopes or valleys from 300-2700 m.

Description 

An evergreen shrub or tree, 3-15 m tall. Current years branchlets are reddish brown aging to greyish brown. Leaf size and shape is variable leading to the naming of a number of subspecies. They are leathery and pale or glaucescent green.

Flowers 

Small and spirally arranged, (a primitive feature) with creamy white tepals that change to pink and then red as they age. They are fragrant and attract beetles and thrips as pollinators .

Fruit

Pale yellow flowers occur in the leaf axiles and there are more than 10 per inflorescence known botanically as a corymb. Petals in young flowers are tightly clasped together, resembling a Russian church spire. Flowers are fragrant and attract insect pollinators.

Location in Garden

Oriental Garden.

Information

The common name of this tree provides a clue to how this attractive flower lures insects and ensures that its pollen is transferred from one flower to another via an inbuilt trigger mechanism. The young flower is very elegant, with petals clasped together, forming a structure our former Director, Tim Entwisle, described as resembling a Russian church spire. The swollen base of this spire like flower has slits in it to allow the flowers perfume to escape. Bees and other insects are attracted to the smell but if they knock the protruding floral parts in any way, a blob of pollen fires out of the top of the flower.
The shocked and now pollen-coated bee moves to a new bloom. This time if it visits an older flower, fully opened and receptive, the pollen being carried by the bee will be deposited on the style or female part of the flower and pollination will taken place.

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