This shrub is often called clerodendrum but is known as the red, white and blue shrub; tree-of-good-fortune (kusagi); and hummingbird bush. I found no explanation of the harlequin glorybower name, but red, white and blue comes from the red of the bud and seed case, the white of the bloom, and blue of the fruit.
Jesus instructed His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you"(Matt. 7:7). The wildflower for today required a lot of seeking to identify its name and origin.
One of our local master gardeners brought this strange fruit for me to identify at church one Sunday. He invited me to examine it in his backyard garden in Deer Run.
Dick, the master gardener, explained that the plant probably sprouted from a seed deposited by a bird or a passing goose. When it was about waist high he noted the unfamiliar leaves and decided to let it grow. Several years later it bloomed and set its fruit. As the weather cooled the red and blue seed case attracted Dick's attention.
After searching about 15 books on wildflowers, shrubs and trees, I found only one brief reference, but Dick got clues from www.walterreeves.com and further search of the Internet yielded photos that confirmed the identity.
My book on shrubs contributed the origin. It was introduced to the U.S. from Western China in 1898 by Pere Farges, however, from about 10 sites on the Web I have accumulated more than can be shared in this column.
This shrub is often called clerodendrum but is known as the red, white and blue shrub; tree-of-good-fortune (kusagi); and hummingbird bush.
I found no explanation of the harlequin glorybower name, but red, white and blue comes from the red of the bud and seed case, the white of the bloom, and blue of the fruit.
The tree-of-good-fortune comes from China where parts of the plant are important for creating several herbal medications.
Obviously, hummingbirds are attracted to it, hence the name hummingbird bush. Strangely, though, they are attracted to the fragrant blooms in August and September and not the colorful red and blue seed pods.
The shrub grows 10 to 15 feet tall in warmer environments, however, a harsh winter may kill it. The clerodendrum can become invasive unless the numerous suckers and spreading roots are managed.
The oval-shaped leaves are large, measuring up to 4 inches wide and 8 inches long. The veins of the leaves are prominent on the underside that is covered with a soft fuzz.
The flowers occur on new growth and appear in clusters along 6- to 9-inch stems (peduncles) with the bud on the outer end opening first. The five-petalled flower has long curling stamens as pictured. The bud is actually a brilliant red calyx. After the bloom drops, the red calyx appears to be a second five-petalled flower with a green center, eventually turning a metallic blue.
"Seek and ye shall find" has many meanings. The mystery of this plant was solved by stubborn seeking. In the original quote, Jesus seemed to acknowledge the struggle we adults have to emotionally move toward Him in faith. It is difficult for most of us to admit that we aren't always right, to admit that we have made many flawed conclusions that have hurt a lot of people.
Earlier in that same sermon Jesus said "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you"(6:33).
Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His e-mail is email@example.com or call him at 770-929-3697.