Lyonothamnus floribundus subsp. asplenifolius

Plant of the month: January

Lyonothamnus floribundus subsp. asplenifolius

Also known as: Catalina ironwood

Family: Rosaceae

Native to: California (endemic to Channel Islands)

Blooms: late spring to early summer

Habitat: chaparral and oak woodlands of the rocky coastal canyons

Where found at BBG&B: American Bank

This is a beautiful tree from the Channel Islands of California. It is used in the American States as a screen tree, like the blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus). Unlikely the Australian tree though, Lyonothamnus is native there and not invasive. It is also a good choice for coastal conditions.

The trees bear elegant fern-like foliage, with smooth-edged leaves not divided into any leaflets or segments. The flowers are white clusters extending out of the foliage. Unfortunately they don’t appear since the tree is about 10 years old.

Another favourite characteristic is the unique presentation of the bark, which is vividly smooth red-brown but somehow, hidden from long grey strips. In autumn, the gardener can pull off the peeling bark to reveal the beautiful colours beneath.

Like many other Californian plants, Lyonothamnus is fast growing but not very long lived. It is also rather tolerant, which makes it a good choice for contemporary, urban planning schemes where the supply of water is limited.