Tetradium daniellii (Bee Bee tree): insect magnet with late flowering

Bienenbaum: Insektenmagnet mit später Blüte

Origin

The bee tree (Tetradium daniellii var. hupehensis, formerly Euodia hupehensis) is native to several Chinese provinces, including the eponymous Hubei province (formerly called Hupeh). The shrub is also found in Korea. 

Growth

The bee tree is a relatively short-lived wood and hardly gets older than 40 years. On poor sandy soils it sometimes shows the first signs of aging after only 15 years. The bee tree usually grows as a small tree with one trunk and forms a relatively crooked trunk. It grows 20 to 40 centimetres per year, in our latitudes it usually does not grow higher than 12 metres and reaches a crown width of 8 to 10 metres. The branches and twigs have a remarkably smooth grey bark.

Leaves

The opposite deciduous leaves become 20 to 30 centimetres long. They are pinnate in pairs and consist of nine to eleven pointed, five to twelve centimetre long pinnate leaves. Their upper sides shine a leathery dark green and the undersides are blue-green in colour. The smell of the leaves is perceived by some people as rather unpleasant, which is why the bee tree is sometimes called “stink ash”. In autumn before the leaves fall, the leaves show a yellow colouring.

Flowers

The almost one centimetre large, creamy white flowers of the bee tree appear from July to the end of September and usually have four petals. They stand in 10 to 20 centimetre large, strongly branched upright umbels at the ends of the new shoots. Bee trees are sometimes dioecious, but mostly monoecious. There are also purely male trees, but most of them carry both female and male flowers in their inflorescences. The flowers are extremely rich in nectar and attract many bees with their light sweetish scent. Honeybees are also an extremely valuable bee food because of their late flowering time and are therefore very popular among beekeepers. Ideally, a bee only has to fly to three flowers to fill its honey stomach completely with nectar.

Fruits

From August onwards, the flowers of the bee tree produce purple-red five-part capsule fruits containing small blue-black seeds. The seeds are very oily and are eaten by birds. The fruit stands are also frequently used in floristry.

Location

The bee tree needs a place in the garden that is as sheltered and warm as possible, full sun to semi-shade. Young plants in particular are sensitive to frost, so the location should have a favourable microclimate and be well protected from cold east winds. Heat and dry air, on the other hand, do not bother the bee tree.

Floor

Fresh and humus-rich, permeable soils with a pH value between 5.5 and 7 are ideal. Drier sandy soils and moist loamy soils are tolerated, but can lead to premature aging of the plants.

Plantation

It is recommended to plant them in spring so that the bee tree gets through the first winter well. Improve sandy soils with plenty of humus and loosen very loamy, moist soils by incorporating sand. After planting, sprinkle the root area with horn shavings and apply a layer of bark humus as mulch.

Care

In very dry years bee trees need additional watering. Otherwise they are easy to care for and do not need regular fertilization.

Cutting

Since bee trees flower on the new wood, you can improve flowering in late winter by cutting back the flowering shoots from the previous year to short shoots with few eyes. In this way you can also regulate the crown size of the plants well. From time to time, the crown should also be thinned out so that it does not become too dense.

Winter protection

In cold climates, winter protection of younger plants is highly recommended. Mulch the root area thickly with autumn leaves and then stabilise it with fir branches. Because the smooth stems are susceptible to frost cracks, you should shade them in winter with stem sleeves made of reed or jute strips.

Use

Bee trees are not only an important source of bee food, but with their magnificent flower panicles they also look very attractive. They are very well suited for protected locations such as courtyards and should be planted in a free-standing single position if possible. If you place them near terraces, you can enjoy the light sweet scent of the flowers in summer.

Planting bee trees underneath is not very easy, as the woody plants root the topsoil very intensively. Balkan cranesbill, Funkien, Rodgersia, Bergenia and various shade grasses cope best with the high root pressure.

Propagation

Bee trees are best reproduced by sowing. Seeds collected in autumn are stored in a dry place and are best sown in May in an unheated greenhouse. Before this, they are left to soak in lukewarm water for at least eight hours. After sowing, the seeds are covered with sand only a few millimetres high and the cultivation boxes are covered with foil or transparent plastic covers. The first winter for the frost-sensitive seedlings should definitely be spent in the greenhouse.

Diseases and pests

The bee tree is completely insensitive to diseases and pests.

Learn everything about insect perennials in our podcast

Besides the bee tree there are many other plants that are good for bees and insects. Editor Nicole Edler has therefore talked to Dieke van Dieken about insect perennials in this podcast episode of “Grünstadtmenschen”. Listen in!

Profile

Growth type
  • Deciduous trees
  • Small tree
Growth height
from 1000.00cm to 1200.00cm
Growth width
from 800.00cm to 1000.00cm
Growth characteristics
  • spherical
  • inviting
Flowering time (month)
  • July to September
Flower characteristics
  • slightly fragrant
  • unfilled
  • monoecious
  • dioecious
Sheet shape
  • egg-shaped
  • feathered
  • tapered
Sheet properties
  • Autumn colouring
  • fragrant
Fruit characteristics
  • long-lasting
Light
  • sunny to semi-shady
Type of soil
  • sandy to loamy
Soil moisture
  • fresh to moderately moist
pH value
  • neutral to slightly acidic
Lime tolerance
  • lime-tolerant
Nutrient requirements
  • moderately nutritious
Decorative or utility value
  • Flower decoration
  • Fruit decoration
  • Leaf decoration
  • Bird protection
  • Nectar or pollen plant
Winter Hardness
  • conditionally hardy
Use
  • Single position
  • Group planting
  • House tree
  • Lawn areas
  • Flower hedges
Garden style
  • Courtyard
  • Natural garden
  • Rhododendron Garden
  • Forest Garden