Parrotia persica, or Persian ironwood, is a unique and beautiful winter-blooming specimen tree. Its unusual flowers emerge on leafless stems in late February and last for up to a month, providing valuable late-winter interest in the garden. Although blossoms are relatively small (only about ½ inch across), their bright red color and sheer profusion make for a wonderful display. Interestingly, the flowers themselves are without petals – the crimson stamens provide the show.
Parrotia persica has an overall habit that is upright and oval in shape; mature specimens can grow up to 40′ tall and 30′ wide. With age, trunks and larger branches begin to exfoliate, exposing a beautiful mosaic of gray, green, white, and brown bark. This feature adds considerable winter interest, and becomes more pronounced as the specimen matures.
Parrotia persica is a member of the Hamamelidaceae, or witch hazel family, which includes many other winter- and early spring-blooming shrubs and trees. It is native to northern Alborz mountains of Iran (formerly Persia; hence the common name Persian ironwood), but is widely hardy in much of Europe and North America and can be reliably cultivated between USDA zones 4-8. Its high tolerance of stressful environmental conditions, as well as its freedom from pest and disease problems, provide yet more reason to grow this outstanding plant.