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Featured Plant

Garrya elliptica


Scientific Name: Garrya elliptica

Common Name: Silk Tassel Bush

Family: Garryaceae

Plant Type: Tree or shrub, 8'-(rarely) 25'

Environment: Needs perfect drainage and non-fertilized soil to thrive, drought tolerant but not adverse to summer watering, cold hardy to 10 degrees.

Bloom: Jan-Mar; Male flowers- more showy, grey-green covered in silky white pubescence(soft downy hairs) up to 12" long; Female flowers-silver-grey, smaller to 3"

Uses: Attractive plant with a neat growing habit. Not grazed greatly by deer or rabbits.

Other: "Cultivated varieties of this plant include G. elliptica 'Evie' and G. elliptica 'James Roof' (male catkins to 14"), both of which can be found at SFBG. Found in several plant communities in California and S. Oregon including coastal chaparral, mixed evergreen coastal forest and north coastal sage scrub.



Garrya elliptica

The silk tassel bush blooms in winter with creamy, pendulous catkins can dangling 3-8, even up to 12 inches from its branches. An inconspicuous shrub in other seasons, silk tassel is a part of the green 'tangles' of plants that compose California and Oregon's coastal chaparral. When December arrives, silk tassel becomes exotically beautiful with its long strands of male flowers. It is a dioecious shrub, meaning male and female flowers occur on different plants, the male inflorescences growing far longer in length than those of the female. Pollen from the male catkins is dispersed through the air by wind. Its fruits are berries with small black seeds that also become airborne.

Garrya elliptica is fairly drought tolerant, needs full sun and prefers medium soil with perfect drainage. Too rich a soil mixture can discourage blooming. Its dull green leathery leaves with wavy margins grow opposite each other. Its height ranges from 8 to 25 feet.

David Douglas, the famous botanist of the Pacific Northwest who discovered Garrya, named it for his friend, Nicholas Garry, the first secretary of the Hudson Bay Company. Other species are found in Nevada, Arizona, and even in the West Indies, but none have the impressive length of catkins as Garrya elliptica.

Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor, Text by Docent Kathy McNeil, Profile by David Kruse-Pickler


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