Common name: Redbud hazel
Disanthus cercidifolius is an unusual deciduous shrub native to China and Japan and grows to 3 m/10 ft tall. Being in the Witchhazel family, it is a slow grower and spreads out in every direction. Disanthus is most at home in a light woodland protected from strong sun and wind.
When it’s fall in the Japanese Garden, the leaves of Disanthus cercidifolius make the most amazing display. Red, yellow, orange, purple and green leaves are often found on the same branch. Some of the purple leaves become so dark they look like black ones.
The genus name is from the Greek word ‘dis’ meaning twice and ‘anthos’ flower. It has an inconspicuous paired flower - so tiny and dark it’s hard to spot. The specific epithet refers to the similarity to redbud (Cercis) leaf.
The genus Disanthus was thought to be monotypic (containing only one species). But a new species was found in northwestern Vietnam - Disanthus ovatifolius.
Text and photos by Hughie Jones.