Looks like a Daphne, but…

When people first hear the name, Daphniphyllum, they immediately think, Daphne, and obviously, when this was named by Blume in 1826, he thought the same. Daphniphyllum, however, couldn’t be more different. First, it’s completely unrelated. Daphne is in the Thymelaeaceae family, while Daphniphyllum sits alone in its own family, Daphniphyllaceae. Daphniphyllum is a small genus of large evergreen shrubs/small trees, ranging from the Himalayas though Southeastern Asia. The foliage looks a bit like a rhododendron, hence our common name, redneck rhododendron. I fell in love with these thanks to several seedlings shared by the late J.C. Raulston, that I planted along the lake at our NC State Fairgrounds. The evergreen foliage, red leaf petioles, and large clusters of blue fruit make a very attractive specimen. The plant below is a 20 year old specimen of Daphniphyllum macropodum at JLBG.

Daphniphyllum macropodum

2 thoughts on “Looks like a Daphne, but…”

  1. Hi Tony,
    How about a local Photinia serratifolia that looks like a Daphniphyllum macropodum?

    By coincidence your mature Daphniphyllum macropodum is very similar in its dense mounding habit and new growth pattern to what I believe to be a variety of Photinia serratifolia (Chinese Photinia) growing nearby in SW Wake County. Though in full sun these suspected Photinia s. will bloom heavily with white flowers, when it is grown in the deciduous understory it blooms much less and the focus shifts to the new growth and evergreen serrated broadleaf foliage. The overall appearance of this “Photinia s.” has a striking resemblance to Daphniphyllum macropodum but may be smaller at maturity. So, I now suspect these 15 ft. tall 40-50 plus year old heirloom specimens of “Photinia serratifolia”, are in fact Photinia serratifolia var. daphniphylloides.

    The original owner of the property was a gardener known to collect plants from around the world, so this would have been in character for him. Also, unlike disease prone “Red Tip Photinia” that are highly susceptible to Entomosporium leaf spot disease, this variety of “Photinia s.” appear to be fully resistant. Photinia serratifolia was a popular landscaping plant prior to the introduction of Red-tip photinia (Photinia x fraseri). So do you have any thoughts on using this plant, Photinia s. var. daphniphylloides in the landscape?


    1. We also love Photinia serratifolia, and have a nice specimen at JLBG. It’s long been one of my favorite evergreen shrubs, but matures at 3-4 times the size of a mature daphniphyllum macropodum, making it much too large for most city lots.

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