Barney’s Tree of the Month: PARROTIA persica – Persian Ironwood

It’s time for a staff tree pick. The gentleman doing the picking will be known to many of you, dear readers, so there’s added pressure to select something a little different. After all, if you’re a fourth generation nurseryman, there should be every expectation for a tree selection that’s different and unexpected. This is no time or place for the obvious. 

The good news is, Barney’s choice is a little different. By plumping for the PARROTIA persica – Persian Ironwood, Barney has chosen a tree that was used in some of the very first streetscapes around the world. There’s an advanced age specimen on proud display at the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University (planted in 1881), and younger versions feature heavily in the ultra-modern landscaped grounds of Apple’s Headquarters in Cupertino.

Closeup photo featuring PARROTIA persica leaves in red, orange and yellow.

It’s named after the German naturalist, F W Parrot (1792-1841), who made the first recorded summit of Mount Ararat in 1829. The towering peak is the highest in Turkey, but was once considered to be the border with ancient Persia, hence the persica part of the name (being the Latin spelling of Persia).

The tree itself is just as impressive as its distinguished history. An upright tree with an oval crown, the leaves enjoy changing colours with the season, moving from a deep green in Summer to a autumnal kaleidoscope of colour featuring shades of lime, yellow, orange, crimson and purple. Each specimen will favour one colour more strongly than others, while rarer examples will show all colours, even on the same leaf. 

Photo: PARROTIA persica – Persian Ironwood this Autumn in Arrowtown, supplied by Easy Big Trees.

PARROTIA persica tree with green and yellow leaves in Mcdonnel Road, Arrowtown.
Beautiful orange colours trees at Remarkables Park, Queenstown.

PARROTIA persica – Persian Ironwood

The trunk of the tree is also interesting, with a bark that peels off in strips of grey, green, white and brown. Typically hardy, as one would expect given the location of its origin. This is a tree that will happily grow in a streetscape or avenue setting, where its impressive Autumn colour can delight those that pass by.

An upright tree with brilliant Autumn colours of orange, red and yellow. Showy red flowers arrive before the dark-green leaves. Peeling bark is attractive in grey, green, white and brown. Prefers part-shade to full sun. Avoid wet feet. 

Suitable for: Street planting and feature planting.

Features: Attractive Autumn colour.

Photo: PARROTIA persica – Persian Ironwood, in 135L container, 3-3.5 meters, 9-10 years old.

Testimonial from Bridget, Auckland.
Harry Autumn Planting Tip