Horticultural Highlight: Korean Evodia, Tetradium daniellii

July 29, 2012

Everywhere bees go racing with the hours,
For every bee becomes a drunken lover,
Standing upon his head to sup the flowers….

– Vita Sackville-West

Of all the trees found at Mount Auburn, the Korean Evodia, Tetradium daniellii, may be the most magnetically, attractive to bees. Standing beneath one of these trees, while in its late-July/August bloom, one can be mesmerized, with the melodic hum, and buzzing movement, of innumerable bees, along with other pollinators.

You may have heard of the worldwide problem with honeybee colonies, and its troubling impact on the beekeeping, and agricultural industries. Fortunately, there are thousands of species of other bees native to North America, with about 300 species of these found in New England. There are bumblebees, orchard mason bees, halictid bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, mining bees, cleptoparasitic bees, and countless other types. All the varied types have one thing in common, they visit flowers, in their quest for nectar and pollen. As part of Mount Auburn’s strong commitment to responsible green practices, we have eliminated chemical control of weeds (long ago), avoid the use of toxic pesticides, and have increased our multiple-season, nectar filled plantings. All of these practices provide bees, and other pollinators, with a large environmentally-friendly habitat, which will hopefully increase their overall populations.

You may view a bit of this large pollinating population, on our Korean Evodia, Tetradium daniellii. At this time of year, when there are fewer other trees in flower, the Korean Evodia, produce large quantities of small, ¼-inch, slightly-fragrant, white, flowers. These flowers are collectively borne in 3 to 6” broad, flat corymbs, at the end of twigs. This deciduous tree may grow to be 30-50-feet high, with an equal size width. The opposite, pinnately compound, lustrous dark-green, leaves are 9-15” long. The leaves maintain their green color into the autumn, with little fall color. The botanical fruit, which follows the flower blossoms, begin as a small, reddish, capsule that splits open revealing shiny black seeds inside. These seeds are eaten by many species of birds. The bark on older trees is smooth and gray, somewhat reminiscent of beech trees.
These highly ornamental, small trees are unfortunately little known and used, but here provide further proof of the deep diversity of Mount Auburn’s living collection. On your next visit here, look for fine specimens of Korean Evodia, on Story Road, Robin Path, Cedar Avenue and Woodbine Path.

Still warm in the day, we inspect the bees.
This kind stranger knows them in intimate detail.
He can name the ones I think of as ‘shopping ladies’.
Their fur coats ruffed up, yellow packages tucked
Beneath their wings, so weighted with their finds
They ascend in slow circles, sometimes drop, while
Other bees whirl madly, dance the blossoms, ravish
Broadly so the whole bed bends and bounces alive.

– Heid E. Erdrich

Now is the time of year when bees are wild
and eccentric. They fly fast and in cramped
loop-de-loops, dive-bomb clusters of conversants…

– Elizabeth Alexander

The pedigree of the honey does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him is aristocracy.

-Emily Dickinson

About the Author: Jim Gorman

Visitor Services Assistant

View all posts by Jim Gorman →


  1. Betsy Munzer says:

    Another in your wonderful series on the plants at Mt. Auburn. We learn something from each one. Betsy & John

  2. Helen Abrams says:

    I “discovered” the Evodia on Cedar Ave the other day and was drawn to the bark (also reminiscent of the Yellowood) and flowers. To my delight, you chose this tree for the highlight. As always, informative. As always, poetic. Thanks Jim!

Leave a Reply to Betsy Munzer Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *