This time of year, the trees with blooms are the ones that get noticed. As I go through my daily travels, my eyes are drawn to the white flowers adorning the Japanese snowbells and dogwood trees. Over and over. Not again? Wow, how curmudgeonly to criticize these beautiful trees. It’s just that I am craving more variety.
Japanese stewartia, Stewartia pseudocamellia, is not uncommon and is increasingly seen as a street tree around Portland. But most I encounter are young, under 8 feet tall. My favorite one is over 30 feet tall, on the grounds of of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on the corner of NW Everett and NW Trinity Place.
I notice this tree more regularly in winter when the heavy street tree foliage isn’t blocking the view of the smooth, mottled trunk surface. The trunk leans slightly, making an attractive line and contrasting color against the dark stone surface of the cathedral.
The foliage and the blooms add to its beauty.
And a closer look.
Individual flowers are not long-lasting, but there’s a plentiful supply of buds opening one after the other so that the tree blooms for much of the summer. I’ve seen this referred to as a four-season tree, and I must agree. It’s the best example of an ornamental tree, with attractive form and exfoliating colorful bark.
I love the subtle zig-zagging alternate branching pattern.
Wait, there’s more – fantastic red, orange, and yellow fall foliage. Slow growing, it makes a good garden specimen tree. There are several more species in this genus, all with their merits. S. koreana, S. monadelpha, S. sinensis to name a few.
Stewartia psuedocamellia, details from OSU Horticulture Dept. Landscape database
- Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8
- Related to camellia, family Theaceae
- Best in light shade
- Well drained, acid soil
- Regular water
- Slow growing to 20-40 feet
- Native to Japan