× Sycoparrotia P.K. Endress & Anliker

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Sponsor

Kindly sponsored by
Lucy Garton

Credits

Owen Johnson (2024)

Recommended citation
Johnson, O. (2024), '× Sycoparrotia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/x-sycoparrotia/). Accessed 2024-07-17.

Family

  • Hamamelidaceae

Common Names

  • Hybrid Fighazel
  • Semi-deciduous Parrot Tree

Glossary

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.
stellate
Star-shaped.

Credits

Owen Johnson (2024)

Recommended citation
Johnson, O. (2024), '× Sycoparrotia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/x-sycoparrotia/). Accessed 2024-07-17.

A group of hybrids arising between Parrotia spp. and Sycopsis sinensis in cultivation, intermediate in features between the parents.

Although they are very different in appearance, the two deciduous species of Parrotia seem capable of hybridising readily with their closest evergreen relatives, such as Sycopsis and Distylium, when they encounter one another in cultivation. The cross between Parrotia persica and Sycopsis sinensis was first reported around 1950 from P. Schönholzer’s nursery in Basel, Switzerland, with Parrotia the seed parent (Edwards & Marshall 2019; Dirr 2009; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 2019). This is one of very few recorded cases of a fully deciduous tree hybridising with a fully evergreen one – ×Gordlinia, ×Schimlinia, ×Sorbacantha and ×Sorbocotoneaster being others.

This garden hybrid was dignified with a botanical description by Peter Endress and Johan Anliker in 1968. Latter-day botanists might have been less quick to do this: the latinate name probably distracts some gardeners from realising that growing such a plant does very little to further our understanding and appreciation of Earth’s natural biodiversity, and less still to conserve it. A botanical name also provides nurseries with something by which to sell artificial crosses that may, or may not, merit garden space.

The very rare Chinese Parrotia subaequalis is a newcomer to western gardens. The first seedling raised by Ozzie Johnson from the very first P. subaequalis to be grown in North America, in his garden in Atlanta, Georgia, has turned out to be semi-evergreen; its similarity to the commercially available forms of ×Sycoparrotia semidecidua has led Ozzie to assume that the pollen parent was a Sycopsis sinensis growing about 30 m away, although Distylium racemosum also grows at a similar distance. This unconfirmed hybrid has not yet been named. Also in Ozzie’s garden, a P. persica (since removed) has produced one seedling of similar appearance again (i.e. probably ×Sycoparrotia semidecidua); this last specimen is now growing at the Atlanta Botanic Garden (O. Johnson pers. comm. 2023).

An even less probable cross between Sycopsis sinensis and the deciduous winter-flowering shrub Hamamelis mollis was once cultivated at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens (19761531*Z), but seems to have attracted very little horticultural interest and was never botanically described. It differed from ×Sycoparrotia in long-tipped leaves with large, scalloped teeth, and in the dense stellate hairs on its twigs (De Langhe 2014; scans of leaves pressed in 1999 by Jan De Langhe are viewable here).

For a discussion of artificial crosses between Distylium and Parrotia, see the entry Distylium × Parrotia; for a discussion of possible crosses between Distylium and Sycopsis, see the entry for Distyliopsis.