fresh flower


This South African native has many uses

by Steven W. Brown, AIFD

Photo courtesy of California
Cut Flower Commission

1 AN UNCOMMON CUT. Pro-nounced “loo-ka-DEN-dron,” these cut flowers grow as showy trees and shrubs. There are more than 80 species of Leucadendrons, all with interesting characteristics. Some are stark and dramatic; others are slender stemmed and bushy. Some, like silver tree (L. argenteum), have “hairy” leaves.

2 FAUX FLOWERS. Leucadendrons are compositions of stiff, colorful terminal leaves (bracts) that surround conelike flowers. The flowers have most of the parts of conventional flowers reduced to small scales. If the cones are developed and visible, they are most likely female. The more inconspicuous flowers are usually male.

3 SCIENTIFIC NAME. The name “Leucadendron” comes from the Greek words “leukos” (white) and “dendron” (tree), referring to the silvery colored foliage. As part of the Proteaceae family, relatives include Proteas, Banksias and Telopeas.

4 FROM SOUTH AFRICA. Leuca-dendrons originate from South Africa, along the south and southwestern coastal mountain ranges. Today, many are grown in the United States, particularly in California and Hawaii.

5 AUTUMN COLORS. The colorful bracts of Leucadendrons are available in red, burgundy and yellow. Purchase Leucadendrons when the bracts have developed color but before they separate from the “flowers.” Look for any blackened foliage and signs of fungus in the centers.

6 NOTED VARIETIES. Varieties that are more commonly found as cut flowers include ‘Safari Sunset,’ ‘Silvan Red,’ ‘Inca Gold,’ ‘Maui Sunset,’ ‘Katie’s Blush’ and ‘Pisa.’ Noted species include L. discolor (Piketberg conebush), L. laureoleum (golden conebush), L. salignum (common sunshine conebush) and L. linifolium.

7 YEAR-ROUND SEASON. Leuca-dendrons are available all year from domestic, Dutch and Australian sources. There are periods when they are more plentiful, particularly the cooler seasons in the various regions where they are grown. Ask your wholesaler for specific availability.

8 SIMPLE CARE. These flowers are easy to handle. Simply trim at least 1 inch from the end of each stem with a sharp knife or pruner. Remove all leaves that would fall below the water line. Place the stems into a clean vase or bucket with a properly prepared flower food solution. Replenish the solution frequently; the sugar in the flower food can retard leaf blackening.

9 NO WATER STRESS. Leucadendrons will last two to six weeks depending on variety and/or whether one is measuring flower or foliage life. Water stress can severely reduce vase life, so be sure there is always plenty of clean flower food solution in the container. Recutting the stems and changing the vase solution frequently will help these flowers stay fresh. Keep them away from direct sunlight to keep their fresh look much longer. Leucadendrons can be held in floral coolers at 45 degrees to extend their vase lives.

10 ALL DRIED UP. To dry Leucadendrons, stand them upright in a bucket or vase or hang them upside down. Avoid laying them down or piling them together, or an unnatural shape will occur. Store in a cool, dry location, and in about three weeks, the dried flowers will be ready for designing, without shedding any leaves or bracts. They usually dry with some color but may fade to tan hues.

Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 26 years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry.

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