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Featured Plant

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii


Scientific Name: x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

Common Names: Hybrid Monkey Hand Tree

Family: Malvaceae

Plant Type: Tree

Environment: Our tree has shown to be quite drought tolerant and enjoys a sunny location, more similar to the Fremontodendron parent

Bloom: Profuse blooms for up to eight months

Uses: Small to medium tree makes for a good background plant in a garden setting

Other: Taxonomic research has shown recently that the name of this plant should be changed to x Chiranthomontodendron lenzii. This is due to the rule that bigeneric hybrids consist of a single word using the first part or the whole name of one parent, the last part or the whole of the other (but not the whole of both) and, optionally a connecting vowel. The common name, Fremontia, doesn't fulfill either of these and is, therefore, not a valid published name. The 'x' that precedes the botanical name is used for hybrids between genera (rather than species where the 'x' is placed between the genus and species). Often placed in the family Sterculiaceae, morphological and molecular data suggest placement in the Malvaceae (mallow family).



x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

The name describes the "cross" or hybrid developed by a California nurseryman in 1981 who placed the pollen of Fremontodendron, a small tree of California's chaparral with golden flowers, on the stigma of a Mexican hand tree, Chiranthodendron pentadactylon.

Chiranthodendron, the female parent, was first noted by Cortez, the conqueror of the Aztec Empire in 1520, who found it growing in Montezuma's gardens. The Aztecs treasured the tree for its medicinal properties. They crushed the leaves and bark into a potion for treating eyes and easing pain. 


Chiranthodendron's home is at 9,000 feet on the wet slopes of cloud forests in Mexico and Guatemala – high altitude forests of great diversity with hundreds of inches of rain and a growing season that lasts all year long.

These two parents, with some help from man, created our hybrid. Like both of its parents, the hybrid "flowers" lack petals. The tawny flower cup is covered with brown hairs called trichomes. The five stamens are united at their base and extend to form five claw-like fingers that resemble a monkey's hand. The style makes a sixth finger or thumb. The stamens of the hybrid are golden instead of red, a trait inherited from its Fremontodendron parent. There are 5 tiny pouches in the flower cup filled with nectar, a feature present in both parents.

The hybrid has evergreen leaves that are lobed, hairy and leathery with five mid-veins, and are very similar in shape and touch to both parents. Our specimen was planted in 2002 in the sunny border of the Entry Garden and blooms six to eight months a year.


Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor; text by Docent Kathy McNeil; profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler; Additional photo courtesy of Far Out Flora.


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