29th November 2011

There is a tree in Barnes Dell that has puzzled us for some while. We had always thought that it was a Judas Tree Cercis siliquastrum because of its heart-shaped leaves that turn red in the autumn. In fact the nearby Katsura Tree also has similar-shaped leaves hence its name of Cercidiphyllum japonicum.

The other day we looked again at this tree to find that it was in flower but the flowers were quite unlike those of a Judas Tree - they are pea-like flowers. In fact, they looked very similar to Hamamelis or Witch-hazel flowers, some of which are in flower now.

So a conundrum. Trawling the web I by chance came upon the answer; it is Disanthus cercidifolius or Redbud Hazel or Japanese Red Witch-hazel. It is a plant from Japan and is in the Hamamelidaceae or Witch-hazel family - hence our original observations. It can grow to about 15ft tall but remains as a shrub for a long time. In its native habitat it provides superb colour as an under shrub in the autumn. In Japan it is called Benimansaku which means "Red First-Flower." The flower looks like a spidery starfish rather than having the strap-like petals of the Witch-hazel. The flowers are supposed to have a faint aroma though I couldn't detect that. So, after all these years, there are still trees to discover!
Redbud Hazel flower; Barnes Dell; November

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