by Jim Atwater

Japanese  Stewartia

You may have missed the magnolia’s and lilac’s spectacular annual show back in May, but do not despair for the show is not over yet. Because of the eclectic and adventurous spirit of the pioneer plantsmen who built our park system over the last century we are blessed with many unusual plants, both native and foreign, that will bloom throughout the summer months in Highland Park. You may have missed the mountain silverbell, the big-leaf magnolia, the white fringe tree, the yellowwood – all natives of our Appalachian region – but nature has several more acts to perform before autumn foliage season begins. The following is a partial list of woody plants found in Highland Park that should be flowering between late June and September. All but one of the eight selected has its origin in Asia, not by coincidence but a reminder of the debt we in Rochester owe to the exploration and collecting efforts of others. A major reason the park is populated with so many representatives from the Far East is the long and congenial relationship we enjoyed with Dr. Charles Sprague Sargent, director of the Arnold Arboretum. Dr. Sargent was kind enough to provide Rochester with specimens of many of the plants the Arnold located and introduced to the western world.

The following is a list of eight plants that should be in flower sometime during the next three months with their approximate location in Highland Park (the location of origin and date first introduced to the horticultural world are noted):


  • Japanese Stewartia – Japan, 1874. This may be the largest in NY State and was planted over 100 years ago. Located south of the reservoir near the walking path.
  • Golden Raintree – Asia, 1763. Next to the parking lot northwest of Warner Castle.
  • Bottlebrush Buckeye – Southeastern USA, 1785. A large, spreading shrub-like plant north of the walk about center of the reservoir, near the Japanese maple collection.


Golden  Raintree


  • Castor-Aralia – Asia, 1865. Two mature trees east of the performance shell in the Warner tract near South Avenue.
  • Pagoda (or Scholar) Tree – China, Korea, 1747. On the south edge of the overlook on the east side of the reservoir.
  • Japanese Clethra – Japan, 1870. Probably over a century old. North side of the path, south of the overlook near the kousa dogwoods and Persian parrotia.
  • Korean Evodia (Bee Bee Tree) – N. China, Korea, 1905. On the south side of the path below the reservoir, next to the Japanese stewartia. A large, multi-stemmed tree.


  • Seven Son Flower – China, originally introduced by E. H. Wilson in 1907. Reintroduced by Arnold Arboretum in 1980. South of overlook near the witch hazels.


I have purposely not described the flowers on individual plants mentioned in this article in the hope that it will energize the curiosity of the reader. If one has to limit themselves to only two or three choices then my suggestion is to pick the stewartia, the clethra and the pagoda tree.

Photos copyright Kimbery Burkard, 2009.