Calycanthus PræcoxJapan All-Spice
- Class and Order
- Icosandria Polygynia
- Generic Character
- Cal. 1-phyllus, urceolatus, squarrosus: foliolis coloratis. Cor. calycina. Styli plurimi, stigmati glanduloso. Sem. plurima, caudata, intra calycem succulentum.
- Specific Character and Synonyms
- CALYCANTHUS præcox petalis interioribus minutis. Linn. Sp. Pl. ed. 3. p. 718. Ait. Kew. v. 2. p. 220. tab. x
- OBAI s. Robai. Jasminum flore pleno suavi fœtido, fructu turbinato, semine phascoli. Kæmpf. Amæn. exot. p. 878.
The learned and instructive Kæmpfer in his Amæn. Exot. that vast fund of most useful information, gives a figure of this plant, in which it is represented both with flowers and seed-vessels, accompanied with a description and short account of it; from which we learn that it is cultivated in Japan as an ornamental plant, that the flowers are produced in February, before the leaves, that they have the scent of the violet, but become unpleasant on being long smelt to.
Hearing that Lord Coventry was the first who possessed this plant in England, I took the liberty of writing to his Lordship in January 1799, to request some information on this point, as well as some others relative to its culture, &c. On the 13th of the same month, his Lordship had the goodness to send me a beautiful specimen of the plant in bloom, a seedling plant one year old, together with a seed-vessel of the year 1798, and some seeds; in the Earl's letter is the following passage:—"the beauty of the Calycanthus præcox at this moment surpasses all description, it is covered with blossoms from top to bottom, and the fragrance of it may be perceived at the distance of fifty yards from the conservatory."By his Lordship's direction, I received at the same time from his Gardener, Mr. William Dean, the following information, in answer to my queries:—"My Lord received the plant from China in 1766:—it was planted in a conservatory, is now sixteen feet high, and expands ten feet wide:—bears a succession of flowers from September to March:—the time of its first blowing I cannot precisely ascertain, but believe it to be nearly twenty years back:—it is propagated by layers, cuttings, and seeds, the latter it produces most years at Croome, but I believe at no other place in England:—there are plants of it at Croome six feet high, in a warm situation in the open border, which have stood out several years by being covered with a single mat in severe weather."Not expecting to receive a plant from Lord Coventry in bloom, our drawing was made from one which flowered with Mr. Whitley, Nurseryman, Old-Brompton, December 22, 1798, and which came originally from Croome, his Lordship having presented most of the Nurserymen about town with plants of it; the blossoms of that from Croome were somewhat larger than those here represented, and the petals were less striped, indeed almost wholly tinged with purple, the leaves also proceeded more from the summit of the stalks and were of a much greener hue, owing no doubt to its being kept in the conservatory, while Mr. Whitley's plant was tacked to the outside of the bottom of the greenhouse.
In the number of its stamina, which is rarely more than five, it does not accord with the character of the class icosandria, nor do the seeds agree with the generic character as described by Linnæus.