Parrotia persica

Parrotia persica, the Persian ironwood, is a deciduous tree in the family Hamamelidaceae, closely related to the witch-hazel genus Hamamelis. It is native to Iran's Caspian region (where it is called انجیلی anjili) and Iranian Azerbaijan (where it is called Dəmirağacı). It is endemic in the Alborz mountains, where it is found mainly in Golestan National Park.[1]

Parrotia persica
Morlanwelz Mariemont JPG22a.jpg
Specimen planted in Belgium
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Saxifragales
Family: Hamamelidaceae
Genus: Parrotia
P. persica
Binomial name
Parrotia persica

The species was named by Carl Anton von Meyer to honor his predecessor at the University of Dorpat, German naturalist Georg Friedrich Parrot.,[2] who botanized in the Alborz on a mountaineering expedition in the 1830s.

Another species Parrotia subaequalis[3] (commonly called Chinese ironwood) originates from eastern China. There are five disjunct populations of P. subaequalis in eastern China: two each in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces (Huang et al. 2005)[4] and one in Anhui (Shao and Fang 2004).[5] A full account of this sibling species can be found in an article "The Chinese Parrotia: A Sibling Species of the Persian Parrotia" by Jianhua Li and Peter Del Tredici.[6]

This species is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (under its former name of Shaniodendron subaequale, which is no longer an accepted name for the species).[citation needed] P. subaequalis is also considered critically endangered (Grade I Key protected Wild Plant) in the China Red Data Book, with a very narrow distribution range. The five known relict populations of P. subaequalis comprise no more than 100 reproductive individuals. Therefore, this species has high conservation priority.[citation needed]



Parrotia persica grows swiftly when young, maturing in gardens to 30 m (98 ft) tall and 8–15 m (26–49 ft) broad, multi-stemmed and naturally somewhat congested but prunable to a single trunk up to 150 cm (59 in) in diameter. The bark is smooth, pinkish-brown flaking/peeling to leave a mosaic of cinnamon, pink, green, and pale yellow patches in a similar manner to plane trees. The leaves are alternate, ovoid, often slightly lop-sided, 6–15 cm (2–6 in) long and 4–10 cm (2–4 in) across, with wavy margins; they are glossy green, turning in autumn to a rich purple to orange and brilliant red, often on the same tree.

The flowers are somewhat similar to witch-hazel flowers but dark red; they are likewise produced in late winter on bare stems, but differ in having only four rounded sepals with no petals; the stamens are however fairly conspicuous, forming a dense red cluster 3–4 mm (18316 in) across. The fruit is a two-parted capsule containing two seeds, one in each half.[7]

Fossil recordEdit

Among the middle Miocene Sarmatian palynoflora from the Lavanttal Basin, Austria, researchers have recognized Parrotia fossil pollen. The sediment containing it had accumulated in a lowland wetland environment with various vegetation units of mixed evergreen/deciduous broadleaved/conifer forests surrounding the wetland basin. Key relatives of the fossil taxa found with Parrotia are presently confined to humid warm temperate environments, suggesting a subtropical climate during the middle Miocene in Austria.[8]


Parrotia persica is cultivated as an ornamental tree for its brilliant autumn colour and the smooth, patterned bark.[9] As an uncommon, drought-tolerant garden tree of moderate size, it is prized for its striking autumn colour and the exfoliating bark that develops on mature specimens.[10]

Several cultivars have been selected for garden planting:

  • 'Horizontalis': semi-weeping, wide-spreading horizontal branching pattern.
  • 'Pendula' (Kew Form): Compact, weeping, quite graceful
  • 'Select': Young leaves have purple margins, otherwise same as species
  • 'Vanessa': Upright, columnar habit

'Vanessa' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.[11][12]



  1. ^ "Iran Wild Frontiers (Part 1): Golestan National Park and Tandoureh National Park - Visit Our Iran - Discover Iran". Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  2. ^ Coombes, Allen J. (2012). The A to Z of plant names. USA: Timber Press. pp. 312. ISBN 9781604691962.
  3. ^ "Parrotia subaequalis in Flora of China @". Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  4. ^ Huang, S., Y. Fang, Y. Peng, J. Yan, and S. Fang. 2005. The niche study of Shaniodendron subaequale population of Longchi mountain. Journal of Central South Forestry University 25: 80–83.
  5. ^ Shao, X. F. and G. F. Fang. 2004. Habitat survey and ex situ conservation of Shaniodendron subaequale. Journal of Anhui Forest Science and Technology. 2: pp. 12–13
  6. ^ Jianhua Li; Peter Del Tredici. "The Chinese Parrotia: A Sibling Species of the Persian Parrotia" (PDF). Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  7. ^ Shorter Oxford English dictionary, 6th ed. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. 2007. p. 3804. ISBN 978-0199206872.
  8. ^ Combined LM and SEM study of the middle Miocene (Sarmatian) palynoflora from the Lavanttal Basin, Austria: part III. Magnoliophyta 1 – Magnoliales to Fabales, Friðgeir Grímsson, Barbara Meller, Johannes M. Bouchal & Reinhard Zetter, Grana 2015, Vol 54, No. 2,85-128.
  9. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Parrotia persica". Archived from the original on 23 April 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  10. ^ "Persian ironwood | The Morton Arboretum".
  11. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  12. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 72. Retrieved 17 April 2018.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Parrotia persica at Wikimedia Commons