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There are approximately 100 species of Lindera, most of which occur in Asia, though there is one in Australia and three in North America. They are evergreen or deciduous trees or shrubs. The leaves are aromatic, alternate or opposite, and may be triplinerved or pinninerved. Lindera species are largely dioecious, though a few hermaphrodite flowers may occur. The inflorescences are composed of solitary or clustered umbels, each containing 3–15 flowers; these may be arranged in a dense raceme, on a short shoot or sessile; in deciduous species they are produced before or as the leaves emerge. Two pairs of semi-persistent, decussate bracts subtend each cluster. The flowers are 3-merous or irregular with up to six equal tepals (or none), which often fall during anthesis; staminate flowers have 9–15 fertile stamens and the innermost whorl is glandular, staminodes absent; pistillate flowers have a variable number of staminodes. The fruit is a one-seeded drupe, which may have a small cupule, or sit freely on a thickened pedicel (Rohwer 1993a, Liao 1996b). Lindera is probably not monophyletic (Li & Christophel 2000) and is badly in need of taxonomic revision. As of 2008 it has not been tackled for Flora of China.
Members of the genus Lindera have been in cultivation for a long time but its full diversity, and its horticultural merit, are only now beginning to be more widely appreciated. This is perhaps particularly true in the United States, where hotter summers seem to provide conditions more to the liking of these species than in (at least) maritime Europe. This may be exemplified by contrasting two references to the East Coast native L. benzoin. Bean (1981a) describes it as ‘a neat bush of no particular merit or distinction’, but Dirr (1998) enthuses ‘Good shrub … in full sun it makes a splendid plant in flower and fall color; a harbinger of spring’. The Asian species are poorly covered in the horticultural literature and we have bent our rules slightly to include some species that are shrubby rather than tree-forming, to enable us to provide more useful coverage of the genus. Since most species are dioecious it is important to plant several clones together to obtain the fruit, which adds a further charm to the autumnal plants.
There are not many big collections of Lindera. That at the JC Raulston Arboretum is perhaps the most comprehensive in our area, and there is also a good selection at Arboretum Wespelaar and Herkenrode. Most arboreta contain a few, but seldom more than that. A number of other species are represented in cultivation by individuals in a handful of collections. Among these are L. neesiana Kurz, noted as a shrub at the US National Arboretum, and L. rubronervia Gamble, of which there are several specimens forming shrubs about 4 m tall in the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. The oldest of these has been there for at least 30 years, but the species is assessed as tender by Hillier & Coombes (2002). Its glossy leaves (glaucous below) colour well in autumn.
All Lindera seem to flourish best in warm or even hot conditions with ample moisture during the growing season. An acidic soil is required; chlorosis soon becomes apparent in alkaline soil, though this can be reversed with the usual application of sequestered iron (S. Hogan, pers. comm. 2007). Light high shade or full sun (if there is sufficient moisture) will give the best results, especially for autumn colour. Propagation is by seed, which requires a cold stratification (Wharton et al. 2005) or from cuttings rooted with warmth and high humidity.
A genus of about eighty species of evergreens or deciduous shrubs or trees, the majority from E. and S. Asia, but a few in eastern North America. Leaves alternate, aromatic. Flowers unisexual, male and female borne on separate plants in dense clusters (or singly in some species not described here). Each cluster is surrounded by an involucre with usually four bracts, which is folded over the flower-cluster in the bud-stage. Petals absent. Sepals usually six in number and petal-like. Anthers two-celled. Fruits (rarely seen in this country) fleshy, or becoming dry and splitting at maturity, containing a single stone.
Sargent remarked that in Japan the linderas make a notable feature in the shrubby growth of the hillsides and on the borders of streams and lakes.