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Botany Photo of the Day
In science, beauty. In beauty, science. Daily.

Enkianthus campanulatus

Enkianthus campanulatus

Finally, a small break for me from the grind of teaching and grant-writing. Time to catch-up a bit!

Enkianthus campanulatus, or redvein enkianthus, has twice been featured on Botany Photo of the Day: Enkianthus campanulatus in flower and the trunk shape of Enkianthus campanulatus.

This photograph was made last year on November 5. I haven't checked on this plant the past couple weeks, but when I last glanced at it, it seemed to be colouring nicely again this year, so it might be worth looking for if you are a local and able to visit the Garden later in the week. I just had a look--it has lost almost all of its foliage already, though a nearby plant still has a little colour. This specimen is in the Alpine Garden, near the pond in the Asian continental bed.

Not all specimens of Enkianthus campanulatus in the Garden colour as nicely this one. This particular plant gets exposed to enough sunlight that it produces significant amounts of anthocyanins (the pigments responsible for the red colouration) in its leaves during the autumn. Exposure to sunlight is typically a benefit to plants; in general, the more light the greater the rate of growth (with exceptions). However, as chlorophyll molecules are broken down in the autumn, sunlight is thought to become somewhat detrimental to the plant. The light (and associated increased temperature) from the sun increases the rate of oxidative reactions, thereby binding nutrient ions so that they can't be resorbed into the overwintering tissues of the plant. There is some evidence that the autumn production of anthocyanins in leaf tissue helps bind the molecules responsible for oxidative reactions (i.e., anthocyanin is an antioxidant), permitting the resorption of the valuable mineral nutrients such as nitrogen.

12 Comments

Mine was a spectacular red for a few weeks, but it's pretty much done for the season now (I'm in South Surrey, BC). I love this small tree in the fall, but I think it's also fabulous in the summer when it's covered with so many bees that you can hear the whole tree buzzing from more than 10-ft away!

Thanks Daniel, your photo makes a handsome desktop background. And thanks also for helping to clarify the perennial question about what makes leaves change colour in autumn.

The twenty-five year old Enkianthus in my garden turns a brilliant clear yellow, and its flowers are more coral than rose unlike the ones in your other picture. Is it a different species or variety, do you think? Or is it something to do with its location under a very tall Austrian pine (hence a very dry site)? I'm not complaining as I love it in all seasons.
Ann

Ah, the photo I keep trying to take. Now at least I can look at yours, Daniel. Thanks too for the links. I've just come back from a very enjoyable half-hour hyperlink maze, been to the hand-shaped tree, the 2006 snowfall, the birds' dinner party, Sorbus renaming. I didn't think I'd ever get back.

Beautiful photo! Now on my desktop for Fall. Alpine Section, huh? No wonder I don't see them much around here. Thanks, Daniel!

Thanks for this beautiful photo and the information. I managed to keep an Enkianthus alive and well in MN for two years--it bloomed and had wonderful color in the fall. Then a severe winter came (or, rather, a normal MN winter) and off to the big compost bin in the sky it went....

Curious as to the list of exceptions to the "more light/greater rate of growth" rule!
thank yo
Harriss

Seattle arboretum has a grove-like mass planting of these. Occasional tall, tree-like specimens are seen from streets here. Had one up the road from me for years, then house turned over and shrub was cut back and sheared into tight shape. Long-established paperbark maple at same place was cut down and replaced with hybrid roses that looked like they came from the drug store.

Harriss, for some plants in species that are extremely shade-adapted, levels of irradiance beyond what the plant is capable of incorporating can damage the plant. It seems to be difficult to find specific examples, but do a search for "effects of excessive irradiance on plants" or "limits to photosynthesis in shade plants" to steer you in the right direction.

I apologize if my wording in the entry wasn't precise.

old song -the autum leaves drift by my window
the autum leaves of red and gold

i hope all of botaday readers along the eastcoast of the usa
are safe i was born in nj and remember the big ones
something to ponder super storms and people and nature

thank you for the lovely tree in its autum dress bonjour

Here in the Central Valley of California, many plants that come with instructions to plant in full sun do better in part shade -- or die in full sun, especially their first few years. I lost several Calycanthus (Spicebush is one name I've seen for it) until I woke up and realized that the one specimen I'd seen growing in the wild was in full shade winter and summer. I planted the next Calycanthus in the densest shade I had and it liked it so much it spread all over the place.

I've had the same experience with many shrubs and some other plants -- Peonies are one. Tulip bloom lasts longer if the plants have a bit of shade as the spring wears on.

We are generally cloudless from mid-April or May until late September, and the daytime temperatures in summer are consistently around 90. Many plants shut down at such high temperatures, and I think this may be the reason so many shrubs (even California natives) need filtered light or part-shade for at least a few years. Once the upper leaves shade the lower, water (so far as I can tell) moves through the plant and even the upper leaves make it through the summer. Desert plants often manage by growing in the shade of a 'nurse plant' for several years so maybe my discovery just mimics the way my shrubs would get their start in nature.

In the garden the baking of the soil by summer sun is dealt with by mulching.

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