Broadleaf evergreen trees are important elements in the southern landscape since gardening is often more pleasant in the winter than it is during the heat and humidity of summer and we need to keep the garden interesting all year through. One plant that will definitely keep things interesting is the Malayan aspen or Exbucklandia populnea. This evergreen relative of witchhazel and sweetgum hails from southern China, Malasia, Bhutan, India, and the surrounding countries. In the wild it forms a tall tree to 60 feet or more but has not proven to be that large in the landscape so far. We’ve been growing it for over a decade and it has fared very well in a protected spot for us at the JC Raulston Arboretum. Young foliage is broadly three-lobed becoming entire as the tree matures. Each of the large, glossy, tropical-looking leaves has a large stipule or leafy structure at the base. Flowers are not terribly showy and are followed by woody capsules bearing winged seeds. We think this tree has quite a lot of potential for southern gardens where it seems easy to grow from seed and gives an unusual texture in the landscape.
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