Scientific Name: Hydrangea seemanii
Common Names: Climbing hydrangea
Plant Type: Vine or shrub
Environment: Prefers cool shade and regular watering
Uses: Best if planted at the base of a mature canopy tree; can be trained as a shrub with pruning
Other: Now considered a synonym for Hydrangea peruviana which has a range from Mexico to Peru at 3500-9600 feet. Name change to be implemented at the Botanical Garden in coming months.Sometimes called the evergreen climbing hydrangea Hardy to 20 degrees Fahrenheit
In mid to late summer, a spectacular sight in the Botanical Garden is the climbing hydrangea, a robust vine that, in one instance, has climbed over 40 feet up a Monterey cypress. The massive display of snowy-white flowers growing up the trunk actually includes two kinds of flowers: the familiar "lace caps" on long pedicels, which are sterile; and the tiny green flowers in the center, which are fertile and without petals. The leaves are evergreen, lustrous and leathery.
Hydrangea seemannii is native to cloud forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico. The extensive shade makes climbing to sunlight imperative. This hydrangea may have two types of growth patterns. If planted free standing, it can grow either as a bush or a vine. If there is support nearby, its long shoots reach out for something to hold on to, and it develops into a vine.
In general, the vining habit is found in plants that grow where there is little soil, little light and little space to grow. Vines have all kinds of climbing adaptations for clinging to their hosts. Certain vines have twining tendrils or appendages, which reach out and grab with a prehensile quality like a monkey's tail. A breeze helps! Some develop hooks, while others have thorns which pierce the host bark. There are vines that also have "hold on" adhesive-type pads. Others have adventitious clinging roots from leaves, stems or aerial roots. H. seemannii holds on with adventitious clinging aerial roots.
Look for this beautiful vine in bloom in the Nurseryman's Garden, just beyond the nursery on the left. There are two more specimens at the Botanical Garden in the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest collection. They are not currently in flower. Hydrangea seemannii is named after Berthold Seeman, a German botanist who traveled the world in the 19th century seeking unusual plants.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor; text by Docent Kathy McNeil; profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler; Additional photo courtesy of Far Out Flora.