Common name: Japanese stephanandra, tanaka stephanandra
Stephanandra tanakae is an uncommon deciduous shrub. A native to the hills and mountains of Japan, this graceful shrub has arching red stems with attractive dark green leaves and small cream-coloured flowers. This plant is tough - it’s easy to grow, happy in sun or shade in any fertile soil and eventually reaches a height and width of 3 m/9 ft.
I first noticed this shrub in winter while walking on the trail near the Black Garden in bed 35E. Its red stems were a treat. When it started to leaf out in early spring, the stems wove around the tiny new leaves. And elegant flower buds arching up followed. Then this rare shrub bloomed away right through fall before its leaves turned a yellow-orange. A plant for all seasons. But it was the emerging leaf stage that caught my breath.
The genus name, alluding to the grouping of stamens, comes from the Greek words ‘stephanos’ (a crown) and ‘andros’ (a man). Its specific epithet honours Japanese botanist Yoshio Tanaka (1838-1916).
Text and photos by Hughie Jones