Compare the gorgeous flowers of three different Stewartia species! Look for the cup-shaped, five-petaled blooms of Stewartia malacodendron with their centers of purple stamens and blue anthers. In contrast, see Stewartia rostrata’s yellow-centered white flowers tinged with maroon. Then there’s Stewartia pseudocamellia, whose species name means false camellia for its camellia-like flowers (note Stewartia is, in fact, related to Camellia); these blooms are round, flat, a bit cupped, with showy orange-yellow anthers in the center. Stewartia’s smooth, orange, yellow-brown bark is distinctly decorative.
Location: Wildwood Trail near Vietnam Veterans Memorial
With purple smoke tree, or smoke bush, the show isn’t about its tiny yellow spring flowers. Rather, it’s the smoky effect, come summer, of the puffy, hazy, purple-pink hairs attached to the long-stalks of the flower clusters after they’ve bloomed. The smoke tree is tough and easy to grow. It’s native from southern Europe to central Asia to northern China. This plant’s autumn performance is pretty great too: its beautifully veined purple leaves turn yellow and orange before dropping.
Location: At intersection of Wildwood Trail and Hawthorn Trail
Golden Chain Tree
The golden chain tree is a real knock-out with its dramatic late-spring blooms. Hanging in long clusters called racemes, its flowers are bright yellow, pea-like (this plant is in the pea family, after all), and produce a sweet fragrance. The 19th-century English poet Francis Thompson described these blossoms as a “honey of wild flame.” Native to the mountains of central and southern Europe, Laburnum’s legume seed pods carry an alkaloid that is toxic to humans; actually, all parts of the plant are poisonous.
Location: Wildwood Trail around the east water tank
Japanese snowbell shines in May and June, when this native of East Asia produces drooping clusters of bell-shaped, slightly fragrant white flowers. They’re easy to see because they hang down, while the tree’s foliage sweeps upward. This tree is popular for its graceful, elegant shape. It’s a common street and yard tree in Portland. After bloom, flowers give way to green-brown drupes. The leaves turn yellow before falling in autumn. The orange-brown fissures on the bark of older trees provides winter interest.
Location: Maple Trail, western part of the trail