Seven Sons Tree- Heptacodium miconoides was first collected in China by Ernest Wilson in 1907 and sent to Arnold Arboretum for evaluation. It was promptly forgotten.
According to stories, it was rediscovered in the Arnold Arboretum plant collection sometime in the 1980’s. The tree was reevaluated and found to be a healthy, vigorous, small tree with disease free foliage through the spring and summer.
In late summer the tree transforms into a real show stopper. Seven Sons Tree is covered with large bracts of flowers consisting of individual clusters of seven creamy white, fragrant flowers each. The name Heptacodium means seven bells and from that is derived the name Seven Sons.
As the flowers fade the second act begins as the sepals at the base of each flower grow and turn a vibrant rose color. This second “bloom” is not an actual flower but is actually a fruiting structure that has all the appearance of a flower. This second show is at least as beautiful as the actual bloom and hangs on until the hard freezes of early winter.
Honeybees find the actual flowers to be irresistible and they come at a time when in some areas there are not many flowers available. the flowers open over a three week period in late September and early October. The second “bloom” is only for the gardener as a beautiful accent to our fall landscape.
Going back to the rediscovery of the Seven Sons Tree. An expedition was sent to China to collect more samples in the 1980’s. They did bring back samples but, they only found seven isolated populations left in China, all of which are threatened by habitat loss.
Seven Sons Tree is a small tree growing to 20 feet or so that may be trained as a single stemmed or multi-stemmed tree. It has a decorative exfoliating bark that adds winter interest. Seven Sons Tree has been called the Crepe Myrtle of the north and is hardy from zone 4a to zone 9. It is tolerant of both full sun and partial shade and with the added benefit of salt tolerance it makes a good choice as a fast growing street tree.
This is a beautiful tree that should be grown more.