The Japanese stewartia, is a small deciduous tree native to the mountains of Japan. With a column-like trunk and exfoliating bark, they grow to around 40 feet tall. By late spring, the stewartia’s Camellia-like flowers begin to show as marble-sized white buds while purple leaves emerge from its branches. These buds open to reveal dainty cup-shaped white flowers with bright orange centers. As the leaves turn dark green, the blossoms are replaced by triangular brown seed pods.
As birds flock to eat their seeds in the fall, the stewartia’s foliage turns shades of fiery orange and burgundy. In winter, its peeling reddish-brown bark makes a nice contrast to the landscape. The tree’s botanical name Stewartia pseudocamellia comes from John Stuart, the 16th-century Scottish botanist, and also refers to the plant’s superficial resemblance to camellias.