Persian Ironwood – Parrotia persica

Persian Ironwood – Parrotia persica

COLOR PHOTO Persian Ironwood foliage

Family Hamamelidaceae: Witch Hazel, Sweet gum, Ironwood

The genus Parrotia includes only this one species. Other members of the family Hamamelidaceae commonly found in cultivation include witch hazel, sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), witch-alder (Fothergilla major) and loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense). This specimen was photographed at The Morton Arboretum at Lisle, Illinois, USA.

Persian ironwood is a small deciduous tree that grows to 30 ft. Grown for its distinctive spreading habit, its brilliant autumn foliage display, its showy exfoliating bark and its curious late winter ruby red flowers, specimens usually have a single, relatively short trunk which forks near the ground, and a rounded crown composed of wide spreading, horizontal, arching, or even drooping branches. Older specimens develop a crossing and overlapping pattern of branches and may have crown spreads greater than their heights. In this, it resembles some Alders, close relatives.

COLOR PHOTO Persian Ironwood

Grown from a planting, this Persian Ironwood is approximately 24 years old

Persian ironwood is tolerant of drought. It prefers cool climates and grows best in USDA zones 6 and 7. Propagation: Seeds require pretreatment before they will germinate and germination may take more than a year. It is best planted as sedd directly in a cold frame or outdoor container. Persian ironwood is easy to propagate from cuttings taken in spring or summer.

color photo persian ironwood accession tag and foliage

Persian ironwoods in their native forest habitat have upright, ascending branches. The leaves of Persian ironwood look much like those of the related American tree, witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). They are alternate, coarsely wavy edge toothed above the middle and 3-5 in (7.6-12.7 cm) long. The lustrous dark green leaves turn bright yellow, orange and purplish red in the fall. Persian ironwood is attractive when not in leaf, too: the smooth bark on the trunk and larger branches peels and flakes, creating a mottled patchwork of green, beige, white and gray blotches. The flowers are a showy curiosity. They have no petals; what you see are spiderlike clusters of ruby red stamens borne along the naked branches in late winter, before the leaves emerge. Several cultivars are available. ‘Pendula’ gets only 5 ft (1.5 m) tall and 10 ft (3.1 m) wide with spreading branches that droop at the ends.

1., Flora of North America,”Hamalidaceae
2., Flora of North America, “Liquidambar Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 999. 1753

Family Hamamelidaceae: Witch Hazel, Sweet gum, Ironwood
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