Trochodendron aralioides – Wheel Tree

Trochodendron aralioides comes from the mountainous regions of Japan, Korea and Taiwan.  The name trochodendron is derived from the Greek words trochus meaning wheel and dendron meaning tree, hence its common names Wheel or Cartwheel Tree, so named because of the spoke like arrangement of the flower stamen.  It is evergreen, has aromatic bark and can reach 20m, but conveniently for us is very slow growing.  It has bright green flowers which are held in racemes in late spring and early summer and we grow it principally for its architectural stature.  Nothing on the face of it to set the heart racing, just another foliage plant. Well actually there are a couple of things out of the ordinary about this plant, things that set it apart.  Firstly it is monotypic, the only one in its family; at one time it had six siblings but they have sadly become extinct (boo hiss).  Secondly it is very interesting botanically (“yippee science!” I hear you shout).  It is unusual as it lacks the usual vessels that transport water and minerals around the plant, instead it has specialised xylem cells called tracheids that perform this duty.  Initially it was thought this was an indication that the trochodendron was a very primitive plant, but now the botanists believe that at some point early in plant evolution it veered off and did its own thing.    Plants are like people, if you look below the surface everyone has a story.

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