Botanist's Lens: Orchids, Star Anise, and Snowbells

A Snapshot Story of a Star, a Snowbell and a Ground Orchid.

Star Anise, Illicium henryi 'Henry's Star'

Star Anise, lllicium henryi 'Henry's Star'


Star as in 'Star Anise', Illicium is an unsung hero of many gardens. Illicium henryi (Henry's Star) is currently blooming at London Town in the deep woodland gardens. Its evergreen luscious dark green leaves are fragrant even more so than the fruit which is used as a condiment in cooking (Licorice flavor).


As for Henry's Star, even the flowers are fragrant, aptly suiting the origin of the Latin name which means 'allurement', referring to the overall fragrance of this pant.


Henry's Star

Illiciums evolved in the cretaceous period. They are one of the dinosaurs of the flowering plants. There are only a few Illiciums in the trade and sadly even fewer species left in the wild.


"Molecular as well as fossil evidence suggests this group diverged during the mid to late Cretaceous, not long after flowering plants came onto the scene. Indeed, along with Amborella and Nymphaeales, Illicium represent the three lineages that are sister to all other flowering plants alive today." Source


Snowbell (Stryax japonicus)

Another quick glimpse at a May beauty of the woodland gardens is the 'Snowbell' flowers of Styrax japonicus. It is an excellent statement tree for any garden. Its droopy white bell shaped flowers are mesmerizing while on the tree or when fallen on the ground. Learn more.


Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata)

Leaving you with a last quick snapshot of another marvelous May beauty of London Town: the Ground Orchid. Yes, I did say Ground Orchid.


It is the most stunning find in the woodland gardens around end of May at London Town. As tricky as epiphytic (growing on surface of a plant) Orchids are, ground Orchids, Bletilla sps. is one of the easiest Orchids to grow.


"They have a great reputation of being the absolute easiest orchid for a beginner to grow. Unlike most tropical epiphytic orchids, this plant comes from somewhat temperate zones and grows in soil rather than on trees and require no extraordinary care to grow successfully." Source


Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata 'White Peral')

Peonies, Dogwoods, Tea Roses and many other blossoms are still filling the ornamental gardens with colors, but the woodland gardens' true mesmerizing May beauties are indeed the Snowbells, Henry's Star and the Ground Orchids.


Grow the ReLeaf Fund Recently, London Town launched the ReLeaf Fund. This newly created fund was inspired by the cycle of renewal in our gardens. Donations to it will ensure that London Town will grow again. Funds will be matched up to $35,000! Learn more and donate today!