|Specimen planted in Belgium|
Parrotia persica, the Persian ironwood, is a deciduous tree in the family Hamamelidaceae, closely related to the witch-hazel genus Hamamelis. It is native to Iran's Caspian region (where it is called انجیلی anjili) and Iranian Azerbaijan (where it is called Dəmirağacı). It is endemic in the Alborz mountains, where it is found mainly in Golestan National Park.
The species was named by Carl Anton von Meyer to honor his predecessor at the University of Dorpat, German naturalist Georg Friedrich Parrot., who botanized in the Alborz on a mountaineering expedition in the 1830s.
Another species Parrotia subaequalis (commonly called Chinese ironwood) originates from eastern China. There are five disjunct populations of P. subaequalis in eastern China: two each in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces (Huang et al. 2005) and one in Anhui (Shao and Fang 2004). A full account of this sibling species can be found in an article: 'The Chinese Parrotia: A Sibling Species of the Persian Parrotia' by Jianhua Li and Peter Del Tredici.
This species is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (under its former name of Shaniodendron subaequale, which is no longer an accepted name for the species). P. subaequalis is also considered critically endangered (Grade I Key protected Wild Plant) in the China Red Data Book, with a very narrow distribution range. The five known relict populations of P. subaequalis comprise no more than 100 reproductive individuals. Therefore, this species has high conservation priority.
Parrotia persica grows swiftly when young, maturing in gardens to 30 m (98 ft) tall and 8–15 m (26–49 ft) broad, multi-stemmed and naturally somewhat congested but prunable to a single trunk up to 150 cm (59 in) in diameter. The bark is smooth, pinkish-brown flaking/peeling to leave a mosaic of cinnamon, pink, green, and pale yellow patches in a similar manner to plane trees. The leaves are alternate, ovoid, often slightly lop-sided, 6–15 cm (2–6 in) long and 4–10 cm (2–4 in) across, with wavy margins; they are glossy green, turning in autumn to a rich purple to orange and brilliant red, often on the same tree.
The flowers are somewhat similar to witch-hazel flowers but dark red; they are likewise produced in late winter on bare stems, but differ in having only four rounded sepals with no petals; the stamens are however fairly conspicuous, forming a dense red cluster 3–4 mm (1⁄8–3⁄16 in) across. The fruit is a two-parted capsule containing two seeds, one in each half.
The richness of Iran's flora and the variety of its vegetation results from the variety and richness of its physical-geographic and natural-historic conditions and from its compound history influenced by the remote florist regions.
Relict genera of the tertiary period can be frequently found in all the zones of North of Iran especially in Talysh. They are the Persian iron tree (Parrotia persica), the Lenkoran acacia (Albizia julibrissin), the basket oak (Quercus castaneifolia), the Caucasian persimmon (Diospyros lotus), the evergreen shrub Ruscus hyrcana, the box tree (Buxus hyrcana), etc. There are 240 endemic species of plants in North and North West Iran and also south-east Azerbaijan.
Among the middle Miocene Sarmatian palynoflora from the Lavanttal Basin, Austria, researchers have recognized Parrotia fossil pollen. The sediment containing it had accumulated in a lowland wetland environment with various vegetation units of mixed evergreen/deciduous broadleaved/conifer forests surrounding the wetland basin. Key relatives of the fossil taxa found with Parrotia are presently confined to humid warm temperate environments, suggesting a subtropical climate during the middle Miocene in Austria.
Parrotia persica is cultivated as an ornamental tree for its brilliant autumn colour and the smooth, patterned bark. As an uncommon, drought-tolerant garden tree of moderate size, it is prized for its striking autumn colour and the exfoliating bark that develops on mature specimens.
Several cultivars have been selected for garden planting:
- 'Horizontalis': semi-weeping, wide-spreading horizontal branching pattern.
- 'Pendula' (Kew Form): Compact, weeping, quite graceful
- 'Select': Young leaves have purple margins, otherwise same as species
- 'Vanessa': Upright, columnar habit
- Coombes, Allen J. (2012). The A to Z of plant names. USA: Timber Press. pp. 312. ISBN 9781604691962.
- "Parrotia subaequalis in Flora of China @ efloras.org".
- Huang, S., Y. Fang, Y. Peng, J. Yan, and S. Fang. 2005. The niche study of Shaniodendron subaequale population of Longchi mountain. Journal of Central South Forestry University 25: 80–83.
- Shao, X. F. and G. F. Fang. 2004. Habitat survey and ex situ conservation of Shaniodendron subaequale. Journal of Anhui Forest Science and Technology 2: 12–13.
- Shorter Oxford English dictionary, 6th ed. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. 2007. p. 3804. ISBN 978-0199206872.
- Combined LM and SEM study of the middle Miocene (Sarmatian) palynoflora from the Lavanttal Basin, Austria: part III. Magnoliophyta 1 – Magnoliales to Fabales, Friðgeir Grímsson, Barbara Meller, Johannes M. Bouchal & Reinhard Zetter, Grana 2015, Vol 54, No. 2,85-128.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Parrotia persica". Archived from the original on 23 April 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "Persian ironwood | The Morton Arboretum". www.mortonarb.org.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
- "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 72. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
Media related to Parrotia persica at Wikimedia Commons