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Dichroa febrifuga
blue evergreen hydrangea
Hydrangeaceae
 
Dichroa febrifuga blue evergreen hydrangea at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Mona Bourell

Dichroa febrifuga, blue evergreen hydrangea by Mona Bourell

 

Native to the rich, mixed forests within a broad range of Southern Asia, from China to Tibet, India, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and to the islands of the Philippines and Java, this colorful accent is also a common resident of several themed areas within our Garden.

A close relative of Hydrangea, Dichroa offers a similar shrubby habit to seven feet tall and 5 feet wide with a subtle, yet colorful cluster of flowers at the tip of the stems, each individual a botanically “perfect flower” with pink, purple, or blue petals. Flowering season is quite long for blue evergreen hydrangeas and occurs late spring through summer, followed by a small, candy-blue to purple berry that extends the ornamental nature of the specimen through the fall season. Dichroa prefers part sun to light shade and moist, well-drained soil. If mulched to retain soil moisture, watering may be reduced to once or twice weekly. As with other hydrangeas, flower color can vary depending on both soil acidity and soil aluminum concentration. At low pH (pH<7.0, acid range), aluminum in the soil is in a more soluble form, that is, a form that is much more available to be taken up with water by the plant’s root system. At high pH (pH>7, alkaline/basic range), aluminum is in a form that is much less available for root uptake, as it forms insoluble compounds that cannot readily be absorbed by the root system. Acid soil with a higher concentration of available aluminum will produce deep blue flowers, while soils with a higher pH and lower concentration of available aluminum can range from purple to pink.

Published as one of the 50 most fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, it is reported that the root of Dichroa febrifuga has been used for as many as 2000 years to treat malaria. As recently as 2012, a scientific publication in the international journal Nature reported on the activity of the chemical compound febrifugine, derived from this species. Not only is there support for understanding the method by which this compound treats malaria, but febrifugine is also being studied for potentially related therapeutic uses to treat cancer and fibrosis. It has also traditionally been used to lower blood pressure, relieve chest congestion, and to endow resistance to tumors, flu, and intestinal bacterial infections. The species name, febrifuga, is derived from the Latin febris, or fever, and fugare, to drive away.

How is it that this unassuming, common plant can play such an important role in human health – past, present, and perhaps future? Other examples in the plant kingdom are all around us and not as uncommon as we may think. Among other important uses by humans, plants have been our medicine cabinet for millennia. Regardless of cause, when a species disappears from the planet we have the potential to lose much more than just a pretty flower.

IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text by Corey Barnes. Photos by Mona Bourell and Joanne Taylor.

Location

Dichroa febrifuga can be found
Rhododendron Garden
(Beds: 71A, 72A, 72F, 73B, 73C) Southeast Asian Cloud Forest
(Beds: 77B, 77K, 78A, 78B, 78C, 78D)
Visiting Info >>
Map (Bed Numbers) >>

Profile

Scientific Name Dichroa febrifuga
Common Names blue evergreen hydrangea; Chinese quinine
Family Hydrangeaceae
Plant Type Perennial evergreen shrub; grows to 3-7ft
Environment Light shade/part sun with regular watering. Hardy to about 20-25°F
Bloom Spring through Summer
Uses Good garden accent. Fruit attract birds. Medicinal.
More Info Similar to the blue forms of Hydrangea, the blue shade of the flowers is determined by soil pH (or more precisely, the availability of aluminum). More acid soils produce bluer flowers.
 
 
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Fitzroya cupressoides

Fitzroya cupressoides

January

Polyspora longicarpa

Polyspora longicarpa

February

Polyspora longicarpa

Magnolia laevifolia

March

Cantua buxifolia

Cantua buxifolia

April

Papaver rhoeas

Papaver rhoeas

May

Strelitzia reginae

Strelitzia reginae

June

Cestrum elegans

Cestrum elegans

July

Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii

January

Magnolia doltsopa

Magnolia doltsopa

February

Magnolia liliiflora

Magnolia liliiflora

March

Vireya Rhododendrons

Vireya Rhododendrons

April

Leucospermum spp.

Leucospermum spp.

May

Senna multiglandulosa

Senna multiglandulosa

June

Tagetes lemmonii

Tagetes lemmonii

July

Eucomis spp.

Eucomis spp.

August

Cuphea spp.

Cuphea spp.

September

Phyllocladus trichomanoides

Phyllocladus trichomanoides

October

Phyllocladus trichomanoides

Saurauia Madrensis

November

Pinus pseudostrobus

Pinus pseudostrobus

December

Magnolia dawsoniana

Magnolia dawsoniana

January

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'

February

Magnolia laevifolia'Strybing Compact'

Magnolia laevifolia 'Strybing Compact'

March

Aristolochia californica

Aristolochia californica

April

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

May

Arbutus menziesii

Arbutus menziesii

June

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

July

Cistus sp.

Cistus sp.

August

Rosmarinus sp.

Rosmarinus sp.

September

Dahlia spp.

Dahlia spp.

October

Salvia cacaliifolia

Salvia cacaliifolia

November

Salvia cacaliifolia

Salvia microphylla
'Hot Lips'

November

Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii

January

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata

February

Magnolia x veitchii

Magnolia x veitchii

March

Iris douglasiana

Iris douglasiana

April

Aesculus californica

Aesculus californica

May

Vaccinium ovatum

Vaccinium ovatum

June

Sambucus racemosa

Sambucus racemosa

July

Sequoia sempervirens

Sequoia sempervirens

August

Asarum caudatum

Asarum caudatum

September

Deppea splendens

Deppea splendens

October

Montanoa spp.

Montanoa spp.

November

Bidens sp.

Bidens sp.

December

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

January

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

February

Bomaria spp.

Bomarea spp.

March

Rhododendron occidentale

Rhododendron occidentale

April

Polystichum munitum

Polystichum munitum

May

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

June

Salvia leucantha

Salvia leucantha

July

Hydrangea seemannii

Hydrangea seemannii

August

Wollemia nobilis

Wollemia nobilis

September

Cyathea cooperi

Cyathea cooperi

October

Pinus radiata

Pinus radiata

November

Correa spp.

Correa spp.

December

Garrya elliptica

Garrya elliptica

January

Magnolia x soulangeana

Magnolia x soulangeana

February

Senecio glastifolius

Senecio glastifolius

March

Ribes spp.

Ribes spp.

April

Oxalis oregana

Oxalis oregana

May

Calandrinia grandiflora

Calandrinia grandiflora

June

Taxus baccata

Taxus baccata

July

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

August

Passiflora parritae

Passiflora parritae

September

Malvaviscus arboreus

Malvaviscus arboreus

October

Monterey Cypress

Monterey Cypress

November

Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens

December

Aloe plicatilis

Aloe plicatilis

January

Banksia seminuda

Banksia seminuda

February

Zantedeschia elliottiana

Zantedeschia aethiopica

March

Magnolia laevifolia

Magnolia laevifolia

April

Araucaria heterophylla

Araucaria heterophylla

May

Toxicodendron diversilobum

Toxicodendron diversilobum

June

Clarkia sp.

Clarkia sp.

July

Agapanthus

Agapanthus

August

Brugmansia

Brugmansia

September

Cedrus spp.

Cedrus spp.

October

Protea repens

Protea repens

November

Camellia sinensis

Camellia sinensis

December

Thujopsis dolabrata

Thujopsis dolabrata

January

Gordonia longicarpa

Gordonia longicarpa

February

Rojasianthe superba

Rojasianthe superba

March

Echium spp.

Echium spp.

April

Iris douglasiana

Iris douglasiana

May

Digitalis purpurea

Digitalis purpurea

June

Felicia amelloides

Felicia amelloides

July

Ceroxylon quindiuense

Ceroxylon quindiuense

August

Amaryllis belladonna

Amaryllis belladonna

September

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba

October

Acer morrisonense

Acer morrisonense

November

Ilex aquifolium

Ilex aquifolium

December

Picea sitchensis

Picea sitchensis

January

Telanthophora grandifolia

Telanthophora grandifolia

February

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

March

Leptospermum Spp.

Leptospermum

April

Salvia gesneraeflora

Salvia gesneraeflora

May

Lavandula spp.

Lavandula spp.

June

Pelargonium

Pelargonium

July

Fuchsia paniculata

Fuchsia paniculata

August

Luma apiculata

Luma apiculata

September

Luculia

Luculia

October

Arbutus unedo

Arbutus unedo

November

Cycads

Cycad

December

Restionaceae

Restionaceae

January

Hellebores

Hellebores

February

Ceanothus

Ceanothus

March

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

April

Psoralea pinnata

Psoralea pinnata

May

Fremontodendron californicum

Fremontodendron californicum

June

Leucadendron argenteum

Leucadendron argenteum

July

Crocosmia

Crocosmia

August

Gunnera tinctoria

Gunnera tinctoria

September

Pellaea rotundifolia

Pellaea rotundifolia

October

Fuchsia boliviana

Fuchsia boliviana

November

Erica canaliculata

Erica canaliculata

December

Magnolia campbelli

Magnolia campbelli

January

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata

February

Camellia

Camellia

March

Geranium maderense

Geranium maderense

April

Acmena smithii

Acmena smithii

May

Eschscholzia californica

Eschscholzia californica

June

Dendromecon harfordii

Dendromecon harfordii

July

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

August

Eupatorium purpureum

Eupatorium purpureum

September

Epilobium canum sp.

Epilobium canum sp.

October

Grevillea spp.

Grevillea spp.

November

Drimys winteri

Drimys winteri

December

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