HAVE an idesia tree that I planted about eight years ago. I've been
waiting for it to produce its lovely red berries and this year at
last it looked like it was going to do so. But they all shrivelled
up and died while they were still green. The tree seems to be healthy
as it grows well. Can you help?
polycarpa is often called the wonder tree as in late summer
it can bear masses of waxy berries, like bunches of bright red grapes,
that remain on the tree long after the leaves have dropped off for
winter. While most other tree species have both male and female
organs in the same flower, the tricky thing about idesias is they
usually come as either a male or female tree. If yours is male you're
never going to get berries, and if it's female you will only get
berries if the flowers are fertilised by pollen from a male idesia.
From what you say it sounds like your tree is a female and the berries
fail to develop fully because they are not being fertilised by a
Some nurseries solve
this sexy problem by selling idesias that have both male and female
shoots grafted on to the same rootstock, so ensuring a reliable
crop of berries. However, there are probably also a lot of seed-raised
idesias for sale out there and there's no way of knowing what sex
these are until they flower and, as you have found out, that can
take several years. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is
plant a male mate for your lonely female, or one of the grafted
types, but you really need a large garden for two idesias as they
get quite large.
Gardener, Issue 205, 2006, Page 33
Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH.