Plant of the Month - October 2012

The Smell of Candyfloss

The autumn colours are developing in the Edinburgh Garden with an increasing presence. One of the regular performers is Cercidiphyllum japonicum, a multi-branched small tree native to China and Japan.

Several collections have been made in Japan of seed from this species that are now successfully established in our gardens. Collected from relatively low altitudes 100-200m it is found growing within mixed deciduous forest, occasionally growing in volcanic silt near a stream.

With age the bark fissures and roughens. The branch framework takes on a horizontal silhouette, the shoots are thin and delicate. Leaves turn yellow and occasionally red. The most magical part of this process is the overwhelming smell of candyfloss which lingers heavily in the air. This is the result of the decay process whthin the deciduous foliage and can also be detected during spring when a late frost catches the unfurled young leaves and a process of decomposition begins on frost damaged foliage.

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