|Scientific Name:||Gordonia yunnanensis (Hu) H.L. Li|
|Author:||Hsen Hsu Hu (1894 -1968), Hui Lin Li (1911-2002)|
You could climb the Gaoligong Mountains of China to see this stunning tree. At Mount Tomah the journey is less arduous, the flowers more accessible and the restaurant nearby.
The genus, Gordonia, honours the eighteenth century London nurseryman, James Gordon and includes about 40 species, mostly from south-eastern China and Southeast Asia, with two species in the Americas. All have very recognisable camellia-like flowers.
Our featured specimens of Gordonia yunnanensis are the result of two collecting trips to Yunnan Province, China by the modern day plant explorer, Bob Cherry, of Kulnura. Seed was collected in the Gaoligong Mountains at 2,250 m altitude in October 1989 and a plant placed beside the boardwalk in our upper Plant Explorers Walk in June 1992, where it has flowered since 1997. Three plants, visible just south of the main car park and bus bays, result from a second wild collection in November 1990 and they share a March 1994 planting date.
Provided with the preferred moist, fertile, lime-free soil conditions, I imagine they will attain a 20 metre tree-canopy status quite quickly. Then, as in their mountain homeland, the saucer-sized, fallen flowers will alert us to the presence of these trees at this time of the year. And yes, flowers do mostly land sunny-side-up creating a snowy carpet. Strong winds snap branches though not much else troubles these winter wonders that flower here in late autumn through into winter and start the camellia season.
This species is not listed as rare or threatened, the wild form is seldom found in cultivation though the cultivar, Gordonia yunnanensis ‘Silk Screen’ has been commercially available in Australia.
For comparison, three specimens of the smaller-flowered Gordonia axillaris, praised by Peter Valder as one of the very best small trees for Australian conditions, grow beside the boardwalk.
Garden Information Officer