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Kew today - oriental paperbush

After a long period in bud during the cold winter, clusters of highly fragrant flowers are beginning to open

Oriental paperbush, Edgeworthia chrysantha (Image: RBG Kew)

A plant that our Curator, Nigel Taylor, has been checking for several weeks is one of his favourites. The oriental paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha), in the Daphne family, can be found in Kew's Woodland Garden. It has been in tight bud for longer than usual this year due to the cold weather, but is now rewarding Nigel's patience as the clusters of highly fragrant flowers begin to open, born on strong, bare branches - a welcome source of pollen and nectar for early foraging insects.

Native to China and Nepal, and also found in Japan, this plant grows in forests, on scrubby slopes and near streams. It has papery, cinnamon-coloured bark and has been used for centuries in its native countries for making high quality paper, especially Japanese banknotes - hence its common name, 'paper bush'. The young stems are incredibly flexible and can literally be tied in knots, and the fibres from its stems are known for their strength and soft, glossy nature. Quite tricky to grow, Edgeworthia chrysantha enjoys moist, well drained soil in a sheltered, partially shaded position.

The plant is named after Michael Pakenham Edgeworth, a Victorian amateur plant hunter who collected it in the Himalayas in the 1840s whilst working for the East India company. Sometimes known as Edgeworthia papyrifera, in celebration of the use of its bark for paper, the name Edgeworthia chrysantha was published a few weeks earlier in 1846 than Edgeworthia papyrifera and therefore takes priority.

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