Plant of the month: March
Also known as: Stachyurus
Native to: Japan
Blooms: March to April
Habitats: forest edges of warm temperate Japan
Where to find it at the BBG&G: Behind the lawn aviary, on Paxton Prospect
This is a deciduous, shrub endemic to Japan. It bears pendent, bell-shaped, primrose-like yellow flowers on naked arching branches in winter and spring. They are followed by ovate leaves that colour to pink or red before falling in autumn. The Japanese name means “Chinese gall tree”, as the fruits have been traditionally used for dyestuff as a substitute for “Chinese gall” (Rhus chinensis). The plant was introduced to the west by Philipp Franz von Siebold, and described in his “Flora Japonica” (1836). Garden specimens are at a premium in European and American gardens, so it is unsurprising Stachyurus praecox found its way into British gardens fewer than thirty years after its initial discovery.