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Ironwood (Parrotia)


Parrotia persica (commonly called Persian ironwood) is a deciduous tree in the family Hamamelidaceae, closely related to the witch-hazel genus Hamamelis. It is native to northern Iran and southern Azerbaijan and it is endemic in the Alborz mountains. Another species Parrotia subaequalis (commonly called Chinese ironwood) originates from eastern China. There are five disjunct populations of Parrotia subaequalis in eastern China: two each in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces (Huang et al. 2005) and one in Anhui (Shao and Fang 2004). This species is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (under its former name of Shaniodendron subaequale, which is no longer an accepted name for the species) P. subaequalis is also considered critically endangered (Grade I Key protected Wild Plant) in the China Red Data Book, with a very narrow distribution range. The five known relict populations of P. subaequalis comprise no more than 100 reproductive individuals. Therefore, this species has high conservation priority. It grows to 30 m (98 ft) tall and 8–15 m (26–49 ft) broad, with a trunk up to 150 cm (59 in) in diameter. The bark is smooth, pinkish-brown flaking/peeling to leave cinnamon, pink, green, and pale yellow patches in a similar manner to plane trees. The leaves are alternate, ovoid, often slightly lop-sided, 6–15 cm (2–6 in) long and 4–10 cm (2–4 in) across, with wavy margins; they are glossy green, turning a rich purple to brilliant red in autumn. The flowers are somewhat similar to witch-hazel flowers but dark red; they are likewise produced in late winter on bare stems, but differ in having only four rounded sepals with no petals; the stamens are however fairly conspicuous, forming a dense red cluster 3–4 mm (1⁄8–3⁄16 in) across. The fruit is a two-parted capsule containing two seeds, one in each half. The richness of Iran's flora and the variety of its vegetation results from the variety and richness of its physical-geographic and natural-historic conditions and from its compound history influenced by the remote florist regions. Relict genera of the tertiary period can be frequently found in all the zones of North of Iran especially in Talysh. They are the Persian Iron tree (Parrotia persica), the Lenkoran acacia (Albizia julibrissin), the basket oak (Quercus castaneifolia), the Caucasian persimmon (Diospyros lotus), the evergreen shrub of Ruscus hyrcana, the box tree (Buxus hyrcana), etc. There are 240 endemic species of plants in North and North West of Iran and also south-east of Azerbaijan.

Taxonomic tree

  • Domain: Eukarya

    • Kingdom: Plantae

      • Phylum: Magnoliophyta

        • Class: Magnoliopsida

          • Order: Saxifragales

            • Family: Hamamelidaceae

              • Genus: Parrotia