In this episode of Plants in focus we will look at a plant from the genus Spiraea. This is a genus of approximately 80-100 species of shrubs mostly that are from the Rosaceae family. They are native to the Northern Hemisphere and the majority can be found in Asia. Most are hardy deciduous shrubs. Leaves are simple and arranged in an alternating spiral pattern. Most species have lanceolate leaves(long and narrow) and the margins are usually toothed, sometimes cut or lobed. The flowers are clustered together in inflorescences, mostly in dense panicles, umbrella like corymbs.
Spiraea cantoniensis is a deciduous or sometimes semi-evergreen shrub with showy clusters of white flowers in the middle of spring. They don’t last long but the effect of massed flowers is quite spectacular. Small rose like flowers have 5 or many more petals and they are borne in round clusters(corymbs) about 5-6cm in diameter.
S. cantoniensis is native to China in the province of Jiangxi and has been widely cultivated elsewhere in China and Japan for many centuries. Jiangxi is located in the southeast of the country and the name is derived from the circuit administrated under the Tang Dynasty in 733. Jiangnanxidao, Circuit of Western Jiangnan. The Gan river dominates this province flowing through its entire length. The Gan enters Lake Poyang in the north(largest freshwater lake in China) and in turn empties into the Yangtze River. Climate is humid subtropical with short cool winters and hot humid summers. Annual rainfall is 1200 to 1900mm which may equate to why rice is the dominant crop in this province. There are more than 2000 species of woody plants here as well. The ancient Ginkgo also makes its home here.
See above how the plant has a nice arching effect. This plant is also known as ‘Reeves spirea and bridal wreath and May bush, although many people will automatically call a Spiraea a may bush, it may not really be known as one. Again, the need for scientific names is critical. The name ‘May Bush’ relates to the fact that it flowers in the month of May in the Northen Hemisphere. Usually late September and October and early November in the Southern Hemisphere.
This Spiraea will generally grow to about 1.5 x 1.5 metres with arching reddish-brown stems and green lanceolate toothed leaves to about 3-5cm long. The leaves will turn yellow in Autumn but sometimes they will persist. This plant will grow in sun or part shade in most soil types and doesn’t mind a bit of neglect now and then. Best if left unpruned if possible because this keeps its natural mound of gracefully arching stems. Frost and drought tolerant and best in a mixed shrub border or as a specimen plant or even a hedge would look stunning.
Another view of the arching stems, magnificent!
Last but not least. Enjoy!