Drimys winteri is an evergreen tree native to Argentina and Chile. The tree in nature often reaches a height of 50 feet. The leathery, aromatic leaves have a peppery smell when crushed. The aromatic bark is used to treat certain stomach problems. (Natives recommended a tea made of the bark of this plant to cure Captain Winter's stomach problems, when he was on expedition for Sir Francis Drake. The tea of this newly discovered plant cured his ailment, hence the name.) Drimys has an unusually simple carpel structure and primitively vesselless wood, which gained the plant considerable notoriety in the 1950's. Currently, it is no longer considered to be so primitive as before.
Blooming Time: Late Winter-Mid Spring. Flowers are 1 inch across, white with yellow centers. They are borne in clusters at the tip of branches and are mildly fragrant.
Culture: Drimys winteri grow best in full sun to light shade with intermediate temperatures. The plant should be grown in a well-drained soil (2 parts peat moss to 2 parts loam to 1 part sand). They like to stay evenly moist and wilt very quickly if they dry out to much. Fertilize monthly in the growing season with a balanced fertilizer. Size is always a concern in the greenhouse; our tree is maintained at 12 feet tall and 8 years old (normally by this age, they would be 30 feet!). Pruning in late summer and fall help to control size and increase blooms.
Propagation: Drimys winteri are propagated by layers or by seed in spring.
Drimys winteri was featured as Plant of the Week March 24-30, 2000.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.