Stewartia sinensis (Chinese Stewartia)

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Stewartia sinensis IN YOUR GARDEN

Type: Deciduous tree
Hardiness Zone: 5-7
Sunlight: Full sun to part shade
Soil Moisture: Well drained
Soil pH: Acid to neutral
Flowering: Summer
Flowers: White
Leaves: Deep red fall color
Bark: Flakey
Height: 15 to 25 feet






Ascending shrubs with several branches from the base or small trees to ca. 20 m. (?); periderm on young shoots flaking or exfoliating in thin strips, the bark becoming smooth and mottled with alternating reddish-brown and lighter buff-colored areas, exfoliating in thin sheets; winter buds compressed, relatively large, ca. 1 cm. long with 4 or 5 silvery-pubescent imbricated scales. Leaves with petioles 3-10 mm. long, shallowly grooved on the adaxial surface; blades ovate, elliptical, or oblanceolate, 3-10.5 cm long, 1.4-4.5 cm. wide, with acuminate apices, serrate margins, and rounded or cuneate bases, both surfaces sparsely but finely sericeous, becoming glabrous. Flowers axillary, the pedicels (3-) 10-16 (-29) mm. long; bracts subtending the calyx often appearing articulated on the base of the calyx, foliaceous, subopposite, ovate with acuminate apices and irregularly serrate margins, (9-) 11-19 mm. long, 7-11 mm. wide, persistent. Sepals 5, erect in bud, finely pubescent on the abaxial surface at the base, an outer pair resembling the bracts in outline and size, (9-) 11-20 mm. long, 7-11 mm. wide, the 3 inner sepals ovate to lanceolate in outline, 11-20 mm. long, 3-5 mm. wide; sepals persistent, becoming lignified at the base, in fruit spreading slightly, or erect and appressed to the dehisced capsule. Petal 5, connate at the base, obovate to suborbicular with slightly erose margins and cuneate bases, 2.5-3.2 cm. long, 1.5-2.5 mm. wide, the abaxial surface sericeous. Stamens numerous, the filaments up to 20 mm. long, connate at the base into a tube 5 or 6 mm. long, the tube adnate to the base of the corolla, the free portions of the filaments glabrous or with scattered hairs at their bases; anthers yellow. Ovary cylindrical, 6-7 mm. long during anthesis, densely pilose over the entire surface, tapering into a glabrous style; style 6-8 mm. long, terminating in 5 or 6 marginally ciliate stigmatic arms, each arm ca. 2 mm. long. Capsules grayish brown, finely pubescent, particularly at the rostrate apices, ovoid and 5- or 6-ribbed, 14-19 mm. long, 9-12 mm. broad, the styles deciduous at apex, dehiscing into 5 or 6 locules, the locule walls 3-5 mm. wide. Seeds 2 per locule, 7-9 mm. long, 4 mm. wide, planoconvex, obovate in outline, obtuse at the base with a very narrow wing surrounding the raised central potion, the wing often emarginated at apex, the surface finely puncticulate, grayish brown.




Sinensis GlobalDistribution GLOBAL DISTRIBUTION

Moderate elevations in the mountainous regions of east-central China; infrequently cultivated in western gardens.











  • PHA Stewartia sinensis ‘Mei-Li-Shu’ – “The history of the latest introduction is short and sweet. I gathered ten seeds on Bussey Hill, at the Arnold Arboretum, in November 1984. They were stratified and planted in the nursery ground on April 14, 1985; germination was the next year. In 1988 one outstanding plant was moved to the North Field, Northeast. A note in 1991 said that the fall foliage was a soft rosy color, “well-leaved”. In June 1993 my Chinese stewartia had its first six white blooms, 1½ inches across, pink on the basal bracts. Later seed was set. My grandson Alexander Hill helped me name the plant since he spoke one or more Clanguages. Looking at the tree, now about 6 feet tall, he explained “Mei” meant beautiful, but required “li” to go with it. “Shu” meant tree. So the name ‘Mei-li-shu’ was sent January 29, 1996 to Dr. Steven Clemants, registrar at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, to be published in Hort Science, 1997. At least one other seedling of the original ten seeds hung on, but was never healthy. ‘Mei-li-shu’ was a winner and never looked back.” From the notes of Polly Hill


Tree logo indicates introduction by Polly Hill

Descriptions from Stephen A. Spongberg, 1974, A Review of Deciduous-Leaved Species of Stewartia (Theaceae), Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 55: 182-214.

Additional plant material from the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Stewartia sinensis AA# 691-94*A