Seven-Son Flower: A plant for all seasons

Seven-son Flower

Seven-son-flower (Heptacodium miconiodes) is a large, upright, multi-stemmed shrub that is full of surprises. The plant was discovered in China by E. H. Wilson in 1906. It was propagated and distributed by the Arnold Arboretum in 1980. While it is now commonly used in American landscapes, it is considered threatened in its native habitats in China.


The common and Latin names both refer to the number of flower buds (seven) that appear in in each cluster in May or June. The first surprise offered by the plant is that the flower buds stay green and tight until they open in August or September. Flowers are creamy white and fragrant, contrasting nicely with the glossy foliage. They are an excellent nectar source for migrating Monarchs and other pollinators in early fall. However, the best is yet to come.


As the flowers mature, they produce inconspicuous fruits, surrounded by long, bright red (very conspicuous) sepals. The fruiting clusters contrast nicely with the foliage and persist until late fall.


The final surprise offered by Seven-son flower is the bark, especially on mature plants. As the outer bark exfoliates, it reveals underlying, multicolored patches that add landscape interest all winter long.


If you want to get acquainted with some excellent specimens of seven-son flower, you can find some along Ninth Street, across from Swallow Hall. Visit them often over the next few months to observe the appearance of their surprising features. Also, appreciate the excellent work done by the professionals in Landscape Services for Mizzou Botanic Garden to keep them healthy and attractive.


Seven-Son Blooms & leaves


Content and photos by Chris Starbuck