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Botanist Lens: Which Plant Wears Red Best?

Updated: May 24, 2020

Who Wears the Best Rosy Red: Azaleas, Japanese Pieris, or Spice Bush?

Marshy Point Azalea 'Red Tape'
Marshy Point Azalea 'Red Tape'

Latin Botanical Names Give Clues About Colors and Origin

Rubra, Flava, or Alba give out hints that the flower of the species are either Red, Yellow, or White, respectively. Whereas Japonica, Montana, or Nana say that the species are from Japan, the mountains, and, dwarf, respectively.

As complicated as some botanical names are, sometimes it is easy to remember them if you pay close attention to the Latin linguistics. Either the Latin name refers to the plant origin or color, or sometimes the specific variety/ common name gives out the hint of which color the flowers or leaves might be.

Lets zoom in on Hema, Rubra, and Rosea. All refer to the color red. Currently, three plants at London Town are showing a deep shade of red in their flowers and/or leaves. These are Calycanthus raulstonii ‘Hartlage wine', Pieris japonica ‘red mill’ and Azalea 'Marshy point red tape'.

Carolina Allspice, Calycanthus raulstonii 'Hartlage Wine'
Carolina Allspice, Calycanthus raulstonii 'Hartlage Wine'

Spice Bush, Calycanthus raulstonii 'Hartlage wine'

Calycanthus raulstonii 'Hartlage wine' (also known as Spice Bush) is an excellent shrub, commonly known for its deep maroon flowers. In this case, part of the variety name 'wine' gives out the hint that it might be deep red, whereas the Latin names are specific to the breeders' names.

"‘Hartlage Wine’ is the original clone of this intrageneric cross. It was named after student Richard Hartlage who crossed Sinocalycanthus chinensis (Chinese species) with Calycanthus floridus (U.S. species)." Source.

Japanese Pieris, Pieris japonica 'red mill'
Japanese Pieris, Pieris japonica 'red mill'

Japanese Pieris, Pieris Japonica 'Red mill'

Another plant with hints of rosy red is Pieris japonica 'Red mill' (also known as Japanese Pieris).

"[Pieris japonica] ‘Red Mill’ is a popular cultivar that is particularly noted for the fiery red color of its newly emerging foliage". Source

Marshy Point Azaleas, Rhododendron

'Marshy point red tape' is an extra special Azalea addition to London Town. Its deep red flower color sets it apart from the rest of the collections, but it is also a Marshy point variety addition that we are thrilled to begin planting this spring.

The Potomac Valley Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society graciously donated over 25 unique varieties to London Town as part of their Legacy project. Thanks to Carolyn Beck, Don Hyatt and Carol Segree, we now have many red/rosea/haema shades of Azaleas that will adorn the deep green hillsides of the woodland gardens.

More Information: Other Colors and Latin Name Hints

Curious about other colors and Latin name hints? Check out the following link from Iowa State Extension.

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