Abelia parvifolia (Schumann abelia)
Abelia parvifolia Hemsl.
Not known to be threatened.
Thickets, dry valleys and by rivers.
About this species
The generic name, Abelia, commemorates Dr Clarke Abel, a botanist and surgeon who visited China in 1816-1817 as Chief Medical Officer (on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks) and Naturalist to the Embassy. However, Abelia parvifolia was not grown in western gardens until almost a century later. As A. schumannii in Plantae Wilsonae, it was one of the many plants collected by Ernest Wilson (also known as ‘Chinese’ Wilson) on expeditions in 1907, 1908 and 1910, and sent back to the Arnold Arboretum in the USA. Abelia schumannii is now considered to be a synonym of A. parvifolia, which is a variable species.
Abelia schumannii, Abelia longituba
Geography and distribution
Native to central China (west Sichuan Province), where it occurs at 1,200–3,600 m above sea level.
A deciduous shrub up to around 2 m tall, with slender, arching branches. The young twigs are purple and covered with downy hairs. The leaves are green, ovate, rounded at the tip and up to about 3 cm long by about 1 cm wide. The funnel-shaped flowers are rose-pink with orange markings and up to about 1.5 cm long, and bloom from May to August.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
This hand-coloured lithograph of Abelia parvifolia was painted from a plant 'presented to the Kew collection by Sir John Ross of Bladensburg, in 1915' (Curtis’s Botanical Magazine).
Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
Now well over two hundred years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.
Abelia parvifolia is cultivated as an ornamental. It has received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society (under the synonym Abelia schumannii).
Abelia parvifolia performs best in full sun, in moist but well-drained soil. It can be propagated by cuttings.
This species at Kew
Abelia parvifolia (currently labelled Abelia schumannii) is grown to the south of the Stable Yard at Kew.
Alcohol-preserved and pressed and dried specimens of other species of Abelia are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.
Barnes, P.G. (2000). Abelia. In: The European Garden Flora, Volume 6, ed. J. Cullen et al. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Barnes, P.G. (2001). Looking at abelias. The New Plantsman 8: 78–92.
Phillips, R. & Rix, M. (2002). The Botanical Garden, Volume 1: Trees & Shrubs. Macmillan Press, London.
The Plant List (2010). Abelia parvifolia. Available online (accessed 28 March 2011).
Kew Science Editor: Martyn Rix
Kew contributors: Steve Davis (Sustainable Uses Group)
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell
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