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  Chinese Wonder Tree

Bringing a splash of colour to our streets and gardens in winter, the Idesia originates in East Asia. It is a deciduous flowering plant, a member of the Salicaceae or willow family, growing to a height of about 25 metres. The flowers occur in panicles up to 30 cm long and are small, yellowish-green and truly insignificant. Male and female flowers occur on separate trees and the female flowers only are fragrant. Its large heart-shaped leaves turn a light yellow colour in autumn, but the spectacular drupes of bright red berries that adorn the female tree in winter are without doubt its most spectacular feature. This is shown to good effect on this Idesia outside the Cambridge Tree Trust depot in Thornton Road.

Although some sources claim the berries are unattractive to birds, they are apparently quite edible. Tree Trust members have observed with delight that in late winter the native pigeon (keruru) sometimes feed happily on the berries of the Idesia near the Tree Trust depot. Each berry has several brown seeds and these are usually spread by birds. The wood of the Idesia does not seem to have any material or medicinal uses.

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