top of page

Persian Ironwood

Parrotia persica

There is one Persian ironwood tree in the Park in the southwest triangle. See Wikipedia entry here.
copper beech sw.jpeg
Persian ironwood in the southwest part of the Park in July.
Persian ironwood factoids:
  • a native tree in Iran (formerly called Persia)
  • the genus name comes not from the bird, but from German naturalist Georg Friedrich Parrot, who did research in Iran. He also reportedly made the first ascent of 5,185-meter-tall Mount Ararat in 1829 (but did not find Noah's ark).
  • the small deep-red flowers bloom in late winter, one of the first trees to bud in our Park. The flowers are perfect (both male and female parts present) and the anthers (male parts) are short but deep red in color. There are two styles (female parts) each of which forms one 9 millimeter seed in the woody fruit
  • the golden color of the leaves in fall and the smooth variegated bark in winter makes this a popular ornamental tree
  • Persian ironwood was Kew Garden's Tree of the Year in 2007. See 32-page write-up here which has more detail than Wikipedia.
Persian ironwood flowers.jpeg
Extreme closeup of tiny flowers that start to open on the otherwise bare branches in February, before the leaves appear
Bark in January, 2021
tree unknown bark crystal pattern.jpg
A fern-like pattern at eye-level on the bark of the tree, probably from a healed wound from a bark boring insect
Botany 101 Bonus
Most high school biology students learn the difference between genotype (the genetics of an organism) and the phenotype (the appearance of an organism). Another word in biology etymologically related to the word phenotype is phenology, which is the study of the timing of appearance of certain features in the biological environment. For example, certain trees flower at different times, which can be recorded over the years. Our Persian ironwood tends to flower in late February, our red maples in mid-March, and our hawthorns in late April. If these dates of first flowering for each species are recorded, the record could reveal changes in the environment like global warming. As the climate heats up, our ironwood will flower earlier in the year. A nice project for a young person is to observe the Park and note, over the years, the first flowerings of the trees, the first appearance of the mourning doves in their nest in the crabapple in the southwest corner, or the first appearance of moss on the rocky plinths in the landscaped beds. Scientists look at data like this, and combine it with spatial changes in the distribution of plant and animal species as discussed on our sweetgum page here. The combination of temporal and spatial data can reveal the long-term changes in our climate.
bottom of page