Tickled Pink

by Nancy Rose, Editor of Arnoldia

July 29, 2015

silk tree flowers

Tickled Pink

silk tree flowers

Silk tree flowers look like bright pink powderpuffs.

In the dog days of summer, the Arboretum’s Living Collection appears as a verdant sea of foliage. The flowers of spring and early summer are gone and the predominant color in the landscape is green. But there are a few trees producing colorful blossoms right now, one of the most interesting of which is silk tree (Albizia julibrissin). This small to medium sized tree in the pea family (Fabaceae) has a wide native distribution in Asia, ranging from Japan west to the Caspian Sea region. It is hardy to USDA Zone 6 (average annual minimum temperature -10 to 0 degrees F) and many specimens can be seen growing around Boston. Silk tree starts blooming in early July and continues to produce flowers for a good two months. The fragrant flowers feature powderpuff-like domes composed of bright pink, threadlike stamens. Visit the Arboretum to see a number of specimens of the species plus a specimen of the cultivar ‘Ernest Wilson’ [pdf] (it’s slightly hardier than the species) that is blooming on the slope southwest of the Hunnewell Visitor Center.

– Nancy Rose, editor of Arnoldia

3 thoughts on “Tickled Pink

  1. How do I go about identifying a plant that I received from the Arbor Day Foundation approximately 7 years ago? I have searched through the Internet, through books dedicated to tree and shrub identification, I have questioned landscape designers, etc. — all to no avail. Does the Arboretum have such a service? Where could I deliver a plant specimen?
    Basic facts: opposite leaves or leaflets, shiny with a touch of red on new growth, leaves/leaflets clasp stem without any obvious petioles, branches emanating from base, present height about 5 feet with similar width, form is fountain-like. No evidence of flowering. Late to leaf out in late spring. Branches near base are slightly four-sided as opposed to being round.

  2. Hi Katherine,
    Have you tried searching the Arbor Day Foundation website or contacting them? They may have recorded information about the plants they have distributed. Alternatively, you may check with the volunteers who answer our Plant Information Hotline. We hope this information is helpful to you in identifying your plant.

  3. Katherine, from your description I’m guessing that your plant is southern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla sessilifolia). The only thing that surprises me is that you say it hasn’t bloomed. Southern bush honeysuckle has small yellow flowers–they’re not wildly showy, but you would probably have noticed them (hummingbirds love them).
    If that’s not your plant, please do follow up on Meghana’s suggestion to contact the Arboretum’s Plant Information Hotline.

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