August 13, 2009

Rare Chinese Tree Blossoms In Belgian Garden

A Belgian arboretum's curator said Wednesday that an endangered Chinese tree has flowered in the garden, which is an event seldom seen anywhere in Europe.

The Emmenopterys henryi, which is considered "one of the most strikingly beautiful trees of the Chinese forests," has brought flower lovers to the Kalmthout Arboretum in the northern province of Antwerp, according to the garden's curator Abraham Rammeloo.

He told the AFP that the greeny-white trumpet-shaped blooms are "a bit like climbing hydrangeas but much more beautiful."

According to the arboretum, only four previous major flowerings of the tree in Europe have taken place since it was first brought over from China 100 years ago.

The first bloom was in Italy in 1971, and another followed at Wakehurst Place in England in 1987.  The tree in Belgian has blossomed twice before.

"We're probably just lucky," said Rammeloo, before explaining that the 40-50 year old tree was relatively mature for Europe.

"We probably chose the most suitable location by accident," he added.

"We cleared a ditch and there was probably plenty of moisture for it there," which it needs and "a couple of other trees have been taken away in the last ten years to allow it more sun," he explained.

The tree is rare in the wild and in gardens.  It is indigenous to southern China's temperate forests, which are threatened by deforestation.

Rammeloo said the best time to see the rare flowers in Antwerp would be through the coming weeks. 

The garden has built a special viewing platform for visitors to admire the flowers, which blossom at the top of the tree.

Emmenopterys henryi have also flowered occasionally in the United States.

Image Courtesy Hans Hillewaert  - Wikipedia