Belfast Botanic Gardens Tree Archive
This is one of a series of short articles about trees and shrubs in the Belfast Botanic Gardens compiled by the Friends group.
Azara microphylla Hook.f.
is a member of
the family Salicaceae (formerly in Flacourtiaceae a fascinating family of mostly tropical and sub-tropical
trees and shrubs little known in gardens of the UK apart from a few individuals
such as Azara
spp and the lovely climber Berberidopsis
There are around 10 species of Azara
, native to S. America (Chile and Argentina);
most are suitable for milder parts of Ireland and the UK.
The specimen that is worth a second glance or two in the Belfast Botanic Gardens
is Azara microphylla
, to be found just inside the
Botanic Avenue gate to the Gardens
Usually a shrub or elegant small tree, this specimen is slender and has adopted
a multi-stemmed tree form. Nearby are several recovering coppiced bushes of the larger leaved Azara serrata.
Azara microphylla is an evergreen tree somewhat resembling
Lonicera nitida with its small neat leaves. These
are pleasantly glossy and arranged alternately along the stem in two opposite
rows. Smaller, about one third the leaf size, foliose (leaf-like) stipules are
attached at most nodes giving the appearance of leaves borne in unequal pairs.
The yellow flowers are very small, often going unnoticed, but distinguished
for their vanilla fragrance so early in the year, February to April, when they
open. It is the cluster of stamens that is the most obvious characteristic of
the flowers which appear on the underside of the twigs, so it is worth getting
up close and searching for them. The scent spills out into the air.
A. microphylla ‘'Variegata'’ of
garden origin has leaves edged with an irregular band of creamy yellow and has
proved a popular garden shrub or wall plant.
Azara near Botanic Avenue gate of the Belfast
Flowering branch of Azara microphylla
Cluster of flowers of Azara. The flowers have
no visible petals; the yellow colour comes from the stamens
The small leaf-like structures attached to one side of the true leaves
The individual small flowers of Azara have 4 stamens
symmetrically about a single stigma
The variegated form of Azara microphylla makes a fine garden
tree, lighting up a shady corner. Photo at Rowallane garden
Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2009 and 2010. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic