Our plants of the shrubby Distyllum myricoides has been in stunning flower for the last few weeks. This fascinating evergreen shrub, mostly native to China, is in the same family, Hamamelidaceae, as its’ better-known cousins, Hamamelis (witch hazel) and Fothergilla (witch alder).
Due to the breeding efforts of Dr. Michael Dirr, distyllum has actually begun to show up in box stores…something that was unthinkable two decades earlier. We love it for the evergreen foliage, but what really excites us is the amazing winter floral show as you can see below.
Here in Memphis TN our distyllium were decimated by the Christmas Deep Freeze. My ‘Cinnamon Girl’ have been in the ground for five years and this is the second time they’ve suffered cold damage. As much as I love them, they’ll probably be replaced this year, with what I don’t yet know.
I’ve just returned from surveying the winter damage around Atlanta, where they had a low of 5 F. Many of the highly marketed distylums were devastated there also, yet others, many from wild collections were untouched. This seems to point to an inadequate trialing by breeders and exaggerated claims of winter hardiness by the nurseries and horticultural marketing firms. Any time a marketing firm or nursery catalog lists a plant as “Zone 7”, without differentiating between Zone 7a and 7b, they have immediately lost all credibility, since these are two completely different zones as it relates to winter hardiness.