Distylium myricoides × racemosum

TSO logo

Sponsor

Kindly sponsored by
Lucy Garton

Credits

Owen Johnson (2024)

Recommended citation
Johnson, O. (2024), 'Distylium myricoides × racemosum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/distylium/distylium-myricoides-x-racemosum/). Accessed 2024-06-20.

Glossary

fastigiate
(of a tree or shrub) Narrow in form with ascending branches held more or less parallel to the trunk.
hybrid
Plant originating from the cross-fertilisation of genetically distinct individuals (e.g. two species or two subspecies).
pollen
Small grains that contain the male reproductive cells. Produced in the anther.

Credits

Owen Johnson (2024)

Recommended citation
Johnson, O. (2024), 'Distylium myricoides × racemosum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/distylium/distylium-myricoides-x-racemosum/). Accessed 2024-06-20.

Garden hybrids, intermediate in features between their parents but often small-leaved and compact in habit.

USDA Hardiness Zone 7

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Among the various Distylium seedlings purchased around 2000 by Michael Dirr of the University of Georgia from Piroche Plants in Canada, who had introduced D. myricoides directly from China in 1995 (Piroche Plants 2023), one sapling stood out for its features which seemed intermediate between D. myricoides and D. racemosum. This was vigorous, reaching 2.5 m after five years, and seemed hardier than pure D. racemosum, and it was also particularly fertile. Its hybrid origins were confirmed by Donglin Zhang, also at the University of Georgia, using molecular markers (Dirr 2015). There is an implication that D. racemosum was the pollen parent in this case – Dirr had ordered Piroche’s D. myricoides selections plus just one plant of D. racemosum – but in this entry the parents are simply listed in alphabetical order.

This accidental cross seems to have unlocked the full potential of this genus’ remarkably protean nature, along with a good helping of ‘hybrid vigour’. The seedlings – there are now several generations – show all manner of habits and foliage features. Some have very blue leaves, some are dark and glossy; one is variegated; the red and purple tints of the unfolding leaves can be particularly showy. Some are low and dense and suitable for groundcover, others are compact and rounded, and by 2022 several fastigiate clones were under evaluation (Dirr 2022). In common with other distyliums these hybrids are subject (as yet) to very few pests and diseases, and their leaves are unpalatable to deer and rabbits; they tolerate the heat and humidity of the American South, even in full sun, and can cope with waterlogged conditions better than most of their relatives (Barnes 2023). They tend to be marginally hardier than D. myricoides itself, with EMERALD HEIGHTS™ and CINNAMON GIRL™ perhaps the toughest (Dirr 2015).

As the generally unpronounceable cultivar names may suggest, these clones are unashamedly commercial artifacts, intended for mass planting within low-maintenance landscaping schemes as replacements for disease-ridden boxes and hollies; they are selected to grow quickly to a maximum size without the need for pruning. As such, they may not necessarily interest the private gardener, and are unlikely to interest the amateur botanist. They represent a fast-growing horticultural subsector and the list below only includes selections which had been commercially released by 2023.


'BLDY01'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum JEWEL BOX™
Distylium myricoides × racemosum BAYOU BLISS™

A compact clone forming a dense rounded bush of rising shoots from which the small leaves also ascend at a regular angle; foliage blue to rich green (Dirr 2022).


'BLDY02'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum CAST IN BRONZE™

A low but more open clone; its dark glossy green leaves flush bronze and maroon (Hatch 2021–2022; Dirr 2022).


'BLDY03'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum MAGIC GLOBE™

A rounded plant with small, dark green leaves (Dirr 2022).


'DISmd-26-18'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum LITTLE CHAMP™
Distylium myricoides × racemosum LITTLE BOXER™

A compact selection with particularly small, dark glossy leaves, suggesting Ilex crenata (Dirr 2022).


'Piidist I'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum EMERALD HEIGHTS™

A compact and hardy selection from the original batch of second generation seedlings, with dark shiny leaves (Dirr 2015).


'Piidist II'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum BLUE CASCADE™

A low plant from the original batch of second generation seedlings; spreading branches carry steeply-rising leaves which flush purplish-bronze and mature a dark matt bluish-green (Dirr 2015). In 2023 this pretty plant was perhaps the most widely available Distylium clone.


'Piidist III'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum COPPERTONE™

A mound-forming plant whose deep red young leaves mature through puce and indigo to a matt blue-green, create a gorgeous palette which contrasts with the yellow shoots; the sale name refers to verdigris rather than fresh copper. In maturity the plant becomes less tidy in form (Dirr 2022).


'Piidist IV'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum LINEBACKER™

A densely upright selection recommended for hedging and screening; to 3 m tall. Coppery-red young leaves mature to a shiny dark green (Dirr 2015).


'Piidist V'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum CINNAMON GIRL™

A particularly hardy and graceful selection; habit compact and arching; leaves very small, flushing plum-purple and maturing to a dark blue-green which stays bright through the winter (Dirr 2022).


'Piidist VI'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum SWING LOW™

A low dense plant reaching 80 cm in height, with blue-green leaves; a seedling from ‘Piidist II’ selected for its performance in a particularly hot summer in Georgia, USA, in 2016 (Dirr 2022).


'sPg-3-007'

Synonyms / alternative names
Distylium myricoides × racemosum SPRING FROST™

A variegated selection: new leaves whitish with green dots and a reddish margin, maturing green with a paler margin. A low-growing clone to 90 cm tall (Hatch 2021–2022; Barnes 2023).


'Vintage Jade'

A hardy form selected in Georgia for groundcover and only growing 60 cm tall, with dark shiny leaves (Dirr 2022). Although an early planting in the Seattle Japanese Garden, in the different conditions of the American west coast it has struggled in a dry shady spot (Kennedy 2023).