I first became acquainted with Persian parrotia (Parrotia persica) in Athens … Athens, Georgia. In early August, I was smitten by this tough, small tree growing in a triangular parking lot island surrounded by asphalt. I recall escaping from the blistering sun and heat to the cool oasis that awaited me beneath its spreading boughs.
True to its namesake of Persian ironwood, this native of northern Iran and Azerbaijan combines beauty with durability. Either grown as a single- or multi-trunked specimen, it’s the foliage and the bark – not the tiny ruby-red flowers that appear in late February and March – that earn it a place in the landscape.
In the Spring, the reddish-purple young leaves unfold and then mature to a lustrous, dark green during the summer. In the fall, the leaves change to single colors or mixtures of yellows, oranges, reds and purples. In the winter, its attractive peeling bark reveals a puzzle-like pattern of cream, green, gray and brown.
Its high tolerance to stressful conditions – heat, drought, and heavy clay soils – and relative freedom from pests makes Persian parrotia a rising star in the landscape. Exhibiting high tolerance to stressful conditions—heat, drought, and poor soils—along with its freedom from pest and disease problems, justifies its use as a landscape or street tree. Because Persian parrotia can grow up to 30 to 40 ft. high and wide, afford it plenty of room in your landscape. There are narrow or upright cultivars available for more confined areas, such as ‘ChrisHaven1’ Golden BellTower™ PP 28,584, ‘JL Columnar’ P.A.F. Persian Spire™, ‘Inge’ Ruby Vase®, and ‘Vanessa.’
If you prefer to enjoy Persian parrotia vicariously, visit the breathtaking multi-trunked specimen at the Biltmore House and Gardens in Asheville. Like me, you’ll fall in love with Persian parrotia.