Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beautiful primrose

Primrose tree Lagunaria patersonia
The primrose tree is an evergreen tree native of Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island, two small islands lying between Australia and New Zealand. It is also found along parts of coast of Queensland in northwest Australia.
It has been introduced in many tropical and sub-tropical countries.  It is a popular street and park tree in warmer parts of the United States of America such as California, Florida and Hawaii as well as in South Africa.

It grows well in Malta but is not very popular and is not often planted.
The flowers are pale pink or mauve, fading to white, and have a waxy texture. In Malta it is in bloom from late spring to early autumn. It has been recorded growing on its own but I have not yet seen any self-seeded specimens.
The primrose tree belongs to the mallow family. In Malta we have several species of indigenous mallows such as the tree mallow (ħobbejża tas-siġra). We also have a number of species such as the hibiscus which are not indigenous. The flowers of the primrose tree do in fact have a superficial resemblance to the flowers of many of the more familiar mallow species.
This beautiful tree is known by several names including the pyramid tree, the Norfolk Island hibiscus and the Queensland white oak. It is also known as the cow itch tree because its seed pods are full of irritating hairs. Luckily Maltese boys do not know about this characteristic as they would undoubtedly be used as an itching powder by the more mischievous of them.
Its scientific name is Lagunaria patersonia. It was named after Andrés Laguna de Segovia who lived between 1499 and 1559. Laguna de Segovia was a Spanish botanist and physician to Pope Julius III and after Colonel William Paterson (1755 -1810), a Scottish soldier, explorer and botanist, who collected the first seeds that were sent to England. 

This article was published in The Times of Malta 26 June 2013

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