Two flowering trees in Kyoto

(with the Brazil nut tree as a bonus)

An old friend L. and his partner I. spent an afternoon a few days ago in Kyoto’s vast botanical garden, where I. took photos of a number of the plants, including shots of two showy flowering trees that L. e-mailed me: Camellia sinensis and Barringtonia racemosa:



The tea tree and the powder-puff tree, respectively.

I posted on 12/26/15 about the genus Camellia, focusing on C. sasanqua and C. japonica, but also mentioning C. sinensis, the plant from which we get the leaves for the tea that we drink. It’s a very pretty shrub or small tree, and its flowers are gorgeous.

On the other hand, not only is the genus Barringtonia new to this blog, its whole family is. From Wikipedia on the tree:

Barringtonia racemosa (powder-puff tree …) is a tree in the family Lecythidaceae. It is found in coastal swamp forests and on the edges of estuaries in the Indian Ocean, starting at the east coast of Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) to Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, southern China, northern Australia, coastal Taiwan, the Ryukyu Islands and many Polynesian islands.

On the family Lecythidaceae (the Brazil nut family), #60 in my running list of plant families on this blog, from Wikipedia (with a lot of fascinating stuff about the Brazil nut tree):

The Lecythidaceae comprise a family of about 20 genera and 250-300 species of woody plants native to tropical South America and Madagascar.

According to the most recent molecular analysis of Lecythidaceae by Mori et al. (2007), the three subfamilies are:

Foetidioideae … from Madagascar include only Foetidia. [Among the species is F. mauritiana, whose wood is commonly known as stinkwood, for its unpleasant smell.]

Planchonioideae (including Barringtoniaceae) are restricted to the Old World tropics.

Lecythidoideae … are restricted to the New World tropics.

… The most important member of the family in world trade is the Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa), valued for its edible nuts

… The Brazil nut family is in the order Ericales, as are other well-known plants such as blueberries, cranberries, sapote, gutta-percha, tea, gooseberries, phlox and persimmons.

… The Brazil nut tree is the only species in the monotypic genus Bertholletia. It is native to the Guianas, Venezuela, Brazil, eastern Colombia, eastern Peru, and eastern Bolivia.

… The Brazil nut is a large tree, reaching 50 m (160 ft) tall and with a trunk 1 to 2 m (3.3 to 6.6 ft) in diameter, making it among the largest of trees in the Amazon rainforests. It may live for 500 years or more, and according to some authorities often reaches an age of 1,000 years.


… In Brazil, it is illegal to cut down a Brazil nut tree. As a result, they can be found outside production areas, in the backyards of homes and near roads and streets. The fruit containing nuts are very heavy and rigid, and they pose a serious threat to vehicles and people passing under the tree

… Though it is commonly called the Brazil nut, in botanical terms it is the seed from the fruit of this tree.

… In North America, Brazil nuts are sometimes known by the epithet “nigger toes,” though the term has fallen out of favor as public use of the racial slur became increasingly unacceptable by the 1960s. They can be seen being sold in a market under this name in a scene from the 1922 Stan Laurel film The Pest.

Brazil nuts in their shells:


And shelled, ready to eat:


Bonus from Charley’s Aunt (1941), Lord Fancourt “Babbs” Babberly (in drag): “I’m Charley’s aunt from Brazil – where the nuts come from.”

One Response to “Two flowering trees in Kyoto”

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