Distylium × Parrotia

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Owen Johnson (2024)

Recommended citation
Johnson, O. (2024), 'Distylium × Parrotia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/distylium-x-parrotia/). Accessed 2024-07-19.


  • Hamamelidaceae


Plant originating from the cross-fertilisation of genetically distinct individuals (e.g. two species or two subspecies).
Small grains that contain the male reproductive cells. Produced in the anther.
(var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.


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Owen Johnson (2024)

Recommended citation
Johnson, O. (2024), 'Distylium × Parrotia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/distylium-x-parrotia/). Accessed 2024-07-19.

Hybrids of garden origin, raised from seed both of Parrotia and of Distylium species and intermediate in features between their parents. Leaves generally semi-evergreen, broadly oblanceolate, a bright and rather glossy green above; veins scarcely sunken, entire or with a few indistinct teeth.

Garden hybrids between Parrotia persica and Sycopsis sinensis were first noted in Switzerland around 1950, and described in 1968 as ×Sycoparrotia semidecidua (q.v.). At this time, Distylium species – closely related both to Sycopsis and to Parrotia – tended to be confined to the largest collections in Europe and North America, and it is only in the 21st century, as various Distylium began to gain popularity as garden plants, that spontaneous crosses with P. persica have begun to be observed, wherever the parent plants grow close together and there is sufficient summer warmth.

The parentage was first confirmed, to genus level at least, by John Nix and Hsuan Chen at North Carolina State University, who studied microsatellite markers in some of 15 semi-evergreen seedlings of Parrotia persica found by Dr Kevin Parris on the campus of Spartanburg Community College in South Carolina (K. Parris and T. Avent pers. comms.). A hybrid seedling of very similar appearance, found in his garden by the late Don Jacobs of Atlanta, Georgia, is now grown at the Juniper Level Botanic Garden, North Carolina, alongside one of the Spartanburg seedlings (Z. Hill pers. comm.). Since Distylium have been grown in variety in all these places (and tend at best to be difficult plants to name), the identity of each pollen parent may be impossible to determine.

The reverse cross has been reported at the Iturraran Botanic Garden in northern Spain by Francisco Garin, who has a raised a seedling resembling the Spartanburg plants from an arborescent and large-leaved Distylium which was obtained as D. myricoides, but which seems likelier to represent D. racemosum (F. Garin pers. comm.).

The Chinese Parrotia subaequalis might be assumed to be equally likely to hybridise in cultivation with Distylium taxa. One semi-evergreen seedling has so far been raised by Ozzie Johnson from the P. subaequalis in his garden in Atlanta, Georgia; Distylium racemosum grows about 30 m away, but from the seedling’s foliage features the likelier pollen parent seems to be a Sycopsis sinensis standing at a similar distance (O. Johnson pers. comm.; for a further discussion of this plant, see the entry for ×Sycoparrotia).

Although they grow vigorously, none of these hybrids seem likely to make plants of great garden merit; as of 2024, none had been botanically described, or offered commercially.