Rare Chinese tree flowers in Cambridge after 30-year wait

Emmenopterys henryi at Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Image caption Emmenopterys henryi at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

A tree described as "rare in cultivation and extremely shy to flower" has bloomed for the first time in its 30-year history in Cambridge.

The Emmenopterys henryi at Cambridge University Botanic Garden is one of only five to have flowered since they were introduced in Britain in 1907.

Dr Tim Upson, acting director, said: "It's a super tree and to see a specimen in flower is extremely rare.

"It could be a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation opportunity."

He said he hoped the tree would continue to bloom "for another two weeks or so".

Emmenopterys henryi has reddish-purple young shoots and red leaves in spring, which mature to a glossy green.

The first recorded flowering in the UK was at Wakehurst Place, Sussex in 1987, but it was another 23 years before it flowered again in 2010.

A specimen has also flowered twice at Borde Hill in Sussex.

The deciduous tree, which belongs to the coffee family, Rubiaceae, is native to central and south-west China.

Emmenopterys henryi was introduced into the UK by botanist Ernest Wilson in 1907 and named after the Irish plant hunter, Augustine Henry, who first discovered the tree in central China in 1887.

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