Fremontodendron californicumFlannel Bush
Fremontodendron californicum. Photo by James Gaither
Fremontodendron (Fremont's tree) was named for General Fremont, explorer of the West and twice presidential candidate. The General was much involved in the early history of California, and in his travels discovered Fremontia near Sacramento in 1846. This beautiful shrub is found from the Cascades to Baja and in Arizona. It is most at home on the dry, rocky hillsides of the eastern flank of the Sierra, where it grows unnoticed in the chaparral until it bursts into bloom, lining twigs and branches with brilliant 3 inch saucer-shaped waxy yellow "flowers," which are really sepals with dusky apricot backsides. The leaves are dull, hairy, triangularly lobed, sometimes irritating to the skin, and tough enough for the early settlers to use to pad their shoes.
English plant explorers brought Fremontia to England shortly after its discovery, and there is a large one in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. It is a difficult plant in the garden as it develops crown rot from over-watering. Its cultivars are easier to grow. It is at its best when left neglected in a sunny undisturbed location. They can be short lived, but grow very fast and can reach twenty feet and be twice as wide. Fremontia is regarded as one of the most spectacular of California plants.
||Evergreen shrubs or small trees
||Similar cultural requirements as California native Ceanothus and look terrific planted together. Best sited in full sun with excellent drainage. Does not require dry-season water.
||Peak bloom in late April - May, but some varieties can bloom sporadically throughout the year.
||Wonderful focal point in a drought-tolerant or native garden. Because of its regular branching pattern, it is a good espalier subject.
Fremontodendron californicum can be found in the Demonstration Garden (Bed 3q) and in the California Native Garden (Beds 33, 34D).
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos and text by Docents Joanne Taylor and Kathy McNeil
Profile by Fred Bové