Posts Tagged Chinese Pearl-Bloom Tree

Dreaming of Snow

Royal Star Magnolia bud in snow

When the alarm woke me this morning, I was dreaming of snow. Not the fluffy cotton candy variety. This was moisture-laden snow; the kind that weighs down branches to the ground, that makes killer snowballs and giant snow people.

It was glowing across the landscape in the light of a full moon, reflecting that orb’s light so brightly that night navigation sans flashlight would have been no problem. I remember my dream self saying, “When the sun rises, this will melt quickly, seeping down to thirsty roots, replenishing the water table. Then I woke up.

The unrelenting heat and drought has me feeling like this poor bedraggled Eastern Tiger Swallowtail:

Tattered but determined

Despite its shredded wings, this beauty was flitting between lantana clusters, drinking deeply in the noon-day sun today. I am trying to be inspired by its determination.

In fact, many of the plants in my yard and gardens continue to bloom despite the near total absence of soil moisture and a searing sun that fades flowers mere hours after opening. Look how wonderful the Chinese Pearl-Bloom Tree (Poliothyrsis sinensis) looks despite our hellish weather:

At peak bloom despite the heat wave

A less tattered Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is managing to find nectar inside this tree’s tiny flowers:

Where is the tree finding moisture for nectar?

Coneflowers were made for this heat. I so admire their stamina:

And my well-mulched, barely watered ornamental sunflower mix, ‘Sun Samba,’ continues to wow me with every new bloom that opens. Check out this one:

Undeterred by our heat wave

Although it’s true that our temperatures have backed off from the 105-degree range to the upper 90s, the stagnant, humid air mass (code orange air quality) and snubs by nearby rain clouds mean my yard is suffering bigtime. I confess it’s beginning to drag me down a bit.

This kind of weather always challenges my spirits. It’s hard for me to watch the plants and animals in my yard suffer as they seek water, food, and shade. Some years back — at least a decade ago — I wrote a poem about how this kind of weather affects me. I thought I’d share it with all of my readers who are also suffering through the current heat wave.

Dog Days

The summer swelters are here.

Days that make me want to burrow

deep into the earth, praying hard

for the wet blessing of a rain drop.


Trees droop their shoulders,

leaves limp as fingers dangling

without purpose.


Nothing sings.

Nothing moves

but the dragonflies gliding

through the thick warm soup

that once was air.


Hard to breathe.

Hard to care.

Caught in the doldrums,

I take baby breaths,

and dream of the quiet chatter of sleet

as it hits a tin roof.

Sweet dreams, my fellow gardeners.


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Summer Showstopper: Chinese Pearl-Bloom Tree

A close-up of the top of the tree

Chinese Pearl-Bloom Tree is fairly new to the US horticultural trade. So new, in fact, that I’ve only stumbled across this common name in the last year or so. This ornamental beauty from central China is otherwise known as Poliothyrsis sinensis.

I got my tree as a tiny rooted cutting from the JC Raulston Arboretum about 15 — maybe 18 —  years ago. My tree is now 35 feet tall, and it’s covered in long-lasting white flower clusters (called panicles) that mature to a buttery yellow and persist on the tree for about a month — even during the record heat wave my part of the southeastern Piedmont is experiencing.

It began blooming by the time it reached seven or eight feet tall; it has bloomed every summer since then. In my yard, the flowers begin to show themselves in mid-June. Even now in a sweltering mid-July, the buttery flower clusters are lovely.

The leaves are exceptionally nice too. They are shiny and heart-shaped, and the leaf stems (petioles) remain a reddish-burgundy color throughout the growing season. The leaves emerge red-tinged, eventually turning their deep summer green. Fall color is a lovely light yellow.

Heart-shaped leaves, red petioles, and long-lasting flower clusters

Eventually, the flowers morph into clusters of brown seed pods that persist on the tree through the winter and into the next growing season:

The tree has a lovely shape too. I think I’d call it pyramidal. In his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (5th edition), Michael A. Dirr calls this tree a “fool-your-friends plant,” because it is not well known to most folks in the US yet. Dirr predicts this tree will remain shrub-like, topping out at about 25 feet. I must respectfully disagree. My tree growing in full sun on a hilltop is 35 feet tall and at least 25 feet wide, and it grows taller every year. In fact, it’s already a little too large for where I planted it.

But that’s OK. This tree — oblivious to drought, heat waves, and pests — can grow as large as it wants. I welcome its annual show of flower power during summer’s dog days — and its welcome shade and autumn color in other seasons.

Chinese Pearl-Bloom Tree

If you’re looking for a unique ornamental tree that tolerates a wide range of growing conditions and blooms during the height of summer, consider this beauty. But give it plenty of room to grow. My experience indicates that this Asian species feels quite at home in the southeastern Piedmont of the United States.



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