Distylium is an evergreen shrub from China, a member of the Hamamelidaceae, the witchhazel family.  While there are twelve species listed, only D. racemosum and D. myridoides are generally encountered in the USA. At SFA gardens it’s been a bullet proof shrub for many years with a history of  clean foliage in our tough climate.  It’s endured long heat waves with many days over 110 degrees F – and has come through some pretty harsh winters without a blemish (single digits).  No, it’s not going to win the color award at a plant show.  With petalless flowers and short racemes, the red stamens make the show, and while rarely dramatic, they do provide some late spring interest.  As a specimen or green screen, this species is underutilized.  In our region, we recommend part shade or at least some protection from a harsh western sun.

‘Mr. Ishi’s variegated’ remains one of our favorites, a long ago gift after a visit from the Japanese nurserymen Mr. Ishi.  It sports a unique variegation trait.  New growth is white with slivers of pink undertones which evolves into a webbing of green and white netting, which eventually fades into the green as the summer approaches.  If new growth is good in the early fall, the same thing happens.  It’s kind of a subtle beacon in the Ruby M. Mize Azalea garden.  Detractors say it looks spider mite infested.  Ignore them.

Distylum variegated Mr. Ishi 09-03-08

Distylium racemosum ishi improved 12-17-06

We have a variety called ‘Guppy’ that’s been at SFA for many years and it’s still a strong dwarf.  A Piroche-form looks good and enjoys strong horizontal branching, although its turning into a small tree.  Another batch of interesting hybrids we are warming up to are  ‘Vintage Jade’, ‘Blue Cascade’, and ‘Emerald Heights’.  They are seedlings from a cross of D. myricoides X D. racemosum, all Mike Dirr introductions and they can be seen at  http://www.plantintroductions.com/distyliumhybrids.html

Distylium bloom