Sep 24, 2008

Abelia

Today I will talk about the genus Abelia.

With 30 species, this genus comprises of deciduous and evergreen shrubs from eastern Asia and Mexico. According to the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, this genus is placed under order Dipsacales and family which also include the genera Dipelta, Kolkwitzia (beautybush), and Linnaea (twin flower).

Abelia flowers are borne in inflorecence (cyme) or reduced cymes. Flowers are bell shaped, bisexual and asymmetrical with 4-5 sepals and petals. Four stamens are fused to the petals and occur alternate with the corolla lobes. Ovary is inferior, meaning that it is found at the very base of all the other parts of the flower. If you cut open the ovary and look under a magnifying glass, you will find that it has 3-4 chambers, of which 1-2 may carry single fertile ovule and the others may carry several sterile ovules. The style on the ovary is long and the stigma where the pollen lands, is capitate. Fruit is an achene, with persistant sepals.

Abelias display elegant growth with dark green, sometimes variegated foliage and abundant small tubular or trumpet shaped flowers. Some species are frost hardy and easy to grow. They prefer sun or light shade with well drained soil and regular watering in summer. They can be easily propagted from cuttings and can withstand heavy pruning and are frequently used as hedge plants. Commonly grown Abelias include Abelia chinensis (zones 8-10), Abelia floribunda (zones 9-11), Abelia schumannii (zones 7-10)and a hybrid Abelia X grandiflora (Abelia chinensis X Abelia uniflora; zones 7-10).

Abelias, with their rich foliage and profuse flowering are mostly used as ornamental plants. Abelia chinensis is a good addition to a butterfly garden.

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