The creamy petals of Gordonia longicarpa with its sunburst golden stamens resemble an oversize camellia. The flowers have a crinkled texture, and can be 3 to 4 inches wide depending on the species. The long, glossy, elliptical leaves have a flush of red in their stalks. G. longicarpa is one of more than 30 species found in the province of Yunnan, China, and the mountains of Malaysia.
Another species, G. lasianthus, known as “Loblolly Bay”, is common in the moist bottom-lands from North Carolina to Florida. It is the only species found outside of Asia. Yunnan and the southeastern states share the same latitude and similar climates on opposite sides of the world. There are many plants that grow in Asia with almost identical relatives in eastern North America. Botanists attribute this strange similarity to continental drift and the early history of the planet, when there was but one continent, Pangaea.
In the Botanical Garden, Gordonia longicarpa can reach up to 50 feet. In the Southeast it varies from a shrub to a large tree. Considered a rare plant, Gordonia blooms during the winter months in San Francisco. Another variety, G. chrysnadra, blooms year round in China.
||Prefer more acidic soil, need year round watering and can not tolerate drought conditions.
||Great for use as a large tree or maintained shrub in gardens. Provide a nice winter bloom.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Docents Joanne Taylor and Kathy McNeil
Profile Contributor: David Kruse-Pickler, Associate Curator
Additional photos provided by SFBG visitor James Gaither