Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica)

W of Edens Hall, near the Giant Sequoia Map

The choice of this little tree to occupy a choice location near Old Main was inspired. Persian ironwood is a visual treat at all seasons and stages of life. In early spring it covers itself with unusual red flowers - anthers (male pollen-bearing structures) only, without accompanying petals. In summer it presents a deep, lustrous carpet of strangely-shaped leaves which turn brilliantly red and/or orange in the fall. Even in winter it is handsome; the falling leaves reveal a pealing bark (similar to the sycamore) with greenish underbark. In flower and seed the Persian ironwood is similar to the more familiar witch-hazel. The sweetgum (tree SG) also is related.

Persian ironwood is native to the mountains of northern Iran. It was introduced to England in the mid-19th century and has been increasingly planted in North America since 1950. Depending on its circumstances it can look like a large bush, or a short tree. The latter form can be encouraged by judicious pruning. Our tree was planted in 2006 and has yet to show its growth tendencies. It is a slow growing plant, with limited growth potential (although trees 80 ft. tall are known).

The common name "ironwood" refers to the dense, hard nature of the wood of this species, which is not known to have been put to much practical purpose. The genus name "Parrotia" honors F. W. Parrot, a German naturalist said to have been the first person (at least in post-Biblical times) to climb Mt. Ararat.