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Sorbaria kirilowii Revealed: Growing Tips and Distribution Insights

The Sorbaria kirilowii, also known as the Dry Wood Wolf, Kirilow’s Pearl Bush, Tassel Sorbaria, Pearl Tree, Dry Wolf Wood, Rice Curtain, and Fish Roe Flower Shrub, can reach up to 3 meters in height, with branches spreading out. Its young twigs are cylindrical, slightly curved, smooth, and hairless, transitioning from green when young to […]

The Sorbaria kirilowii, also known as the Dry Wood Wolf, Kirilow’s Pearl Bush, Tassel Sorbaria, Pearl Tree, Dry Wolf Wood, Rice Curtain, and Fish Roe Flower Shrub, can reach up to 3 meters in height, with branches spreading out.

Its young twigs are cylindrical, slightly curved, smooth, and hairless, transitioning from green when young to reddish-brown with age. The winter buds are ovate with a sharp tip, hairless or nearly so, and reddish-brown in color.

The pinnate compound leaves have 13 to 21 leaflets, measuring 21 to 25 centimeters in length—including the petiole—and 7 to 9 centimeters in width, with a smooth, hairless surface.

It’s a hardy, neutral species that thrives in warm, moist climates, tolerates partial shade, and has strong cold resistance. It is found in various provinces across China and is highly valued both for ornamental purposes and its ecological benefits.

I. Morphological Characteristics

Sorbaria kirilowii

This shrub, reaching heights of up to 3 meters, has spreading branches. The young twigs are cylindrical and slightly curved, hairless, and change from green to reddish-brown as they age.

The winter buds are ovate with an acute tip, hairless or nearly so, and are a reddish-brown color. The pinnate compound leaves are smooth and hairless, with leaflets paired oppositely, spaced 1.5 to 2 centimeters apart.

Each leaflet is lanceolate to elongated-lanceolate, 4 to 7 centimeters long, and 1.5 to 2 centimeters wide, tapering at the tip, sometimes with a tail-like end, and a round to broadly cuneate base.

The margins are sharply serrated, and the leaflets are hairless on both sides or have short soft hairs in between the veins. The veins are pinnate, with 15 to 23 pairs of nearly parallel lateral veins that stand out on the underside.

The leaflet petioles are short or nearly absent, and hairless. The stipules are membranous, linear-lanceolate, 8 to 15 millimeters long, with blunt or pointed tips, entire or slightly serrated at the top, and hairless or nearly so.

The plant features large, dense terminal panicles, with branches slanting or slightly upright, measuring 7 to 11 centimeters in diameter.

The flower stalks are 15 to 20 centimeters long, hairless, and lightly covered with white powder; the pedicels are 3 to 4 millimeters long; the bracts are linear-lanceolate with tapering tips, entire, and 2 to 3 millimeters long.

The flowers are 5 to 7 millimeters in diameter; the calyx is shallowly bell-shaped, hairless inside and out; the sepals are oblong, with rounded or truncated tips, about as long as the calyx tube; the petals are obovate or broadly obovate, with blunt tips and broadly cuneate bases, 4 to 5 millimeters long, and white.

There are 20 stamens, equal in length to or slightly shorter than the petals, attached to the rim of the floral disk, which is cup-shaped. The carpels are five in number, hairless, with styles slightly shorter than the stamens.

The fruit is a long cylindrical follicle, hairless, about 3 millimeters long, with the styles slightly sidewards and curved outward; the sepals are persistent, reflexed, and rarely spreading; the fruit stalks are upright.

The blooming period is from June to July, and the fruiting period is from September to October.

II. Growing Environment

The North China Pearl Bush is a neutral plant species that favors warm, moist climates, enjoys sunlight but can also tolerate partial shade, and is highly cold-resistant.

It is undemanding in terms of soil quality, tolerates drought and poor soil conditions, and prefers moist, fertile ground with good drainage.

With its graceful tree posture and elegant leaves, alongside the large and lush flower clusters, the small white flowers are snow-like and fragrant.

The round, pearl-like flower buds, reminiscent of strings of pearls, bloom like plum blossoms with a long flowering period that can last up to three months, blooming successively.

After the flowers fade, pruning the flower clusters can promote the growth of new flowering branches, with the second bloom being even denser and more beautiful. Its flowering period can extend into October.

III. Distribution Range

The plant grows on sunny mountain slopes and within mixed forests at elevations of 200 to 1300 meters.

IV. Growth and Propagation

Pearl Mead Tree mostly propagates through tillering and cutting, though it can also be propagated by seeding.

Seed Propagation

Seeds are harvested annually between September and October. The capsules are dried in a cool, ventilated indoor area. After drying, the seeds are rubbed gently to remove the husks and impurities, then stored in paper bags.

The soil is raked smooth and fine, and the seeds are mixed with soil and broadcasted. After sowing, a thin layer of fine soil, preferably humus, is applied.

The seeds are then moistened with a spray bottle to ensure close contact with the soil. Watering is done 1-2 times daily after sowing, and seedlings emerge within 3-5 days. The soil should be kept moist during the seedling stage.

One-year-old seedlings can reach 5-15 cm in height, and two-year-olds can grow to about 50 cm. Two-year-old plants are transplanted with a spacing of 40 cm x 60 cm. After 4-5 years, the plants are ready to leave the nursery.

Hardwood Cuttings

In April, strong branches are selected for cuttings, cut to a length of 10-15 cm. The top is cut straight across, and the bottom is cut into a horseshoe shape with a smooth incision.

The cuttings are bundled and soaked in a 100 mg/kg concentration of ABT1 solution for 1 hour. The cuttings are planted vertically into the soil with about 1 cm above the surface, spaced at 10 cm x 30 cm.

Water is thoroughly applied immediately after planting and then once every 1-2 weeks, accompanied by timely weeding and soil loosening. The cuttings generally take root and sprout within 20-30 days.

In the year of cutting, the hard-cut seedlings can reach a height of 30-50 cm. The following spring, they are transplanted with a spacing of 40 cm x 60 cm.

After transplanting, they are pruned to encourage branching. After 2-3 years of cultivation, the plants can reach a height of over 1 meter with 5-10 branches per clump, ready for sale.

Softwood Cuttings

From June to August, semi-lignified, pest-free, tender branches of the current year are selected. Cuttings are made 10-12 cm long, retaining 2-4 small leaves on the top and removing the lower leaves.

The base is cut at an angle, smooth, and soaked in a 100 mg/kg concentration of ABT1 solution for 1 hour. The cuttings are inserted into a substrate made of peat soil, vermiculite, and perlite, and a full-light misting system is immediately activated.

Once a week in the evening, after stopping the misting, a fungicide solution diluted 800 times is sprayed. After callus formation on the cuttings, foliar feeding is performed weekly with a 0.3% urea or potassium dihydrogen phosphate solution.

Once roots reach over 10 cm, watering frequency is reduced. After 3-5 days of hardening, the cuttings can be transplanted to the field, watered thoroughly, with other management practices the same as for hardwood cuttings.

Pearl Mead Tree can also be propagated by layering and division.

V. Cultivation Management

Pearl Mead Tree is tolerant of various soil conditions and is easy to cultivate, with strong drought and cold resistance. Vigorous growth can be achieved with 3-4 top prunings or short cuts annually to encourage a full, aesthetically pleasing branch structure.

VI. Primary Value

Ecological Value

Pearl Mead Tree is resistant to pollution and purifies the air. It has varying degrees of absorption and resistance to harmful gases such as smoke, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide.

It emits volatile phytoncides, which are known to be effective against Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. It also has a significant and stable effect on the most virulent bovine and common soil strains of acid-fast bacilli, which cause tuberculosis.

Landscape Ornamentation

With strong resilience and environmental enhancement qualities, Pearl Mead Tree is easy to cultivate, disease and pest resistant, and quick-growing with strong sprouting and pruning tolerance.

It has an elegant form, graceful leaves, large and lush flower clusters, and snow-white, fragrant blossoms. Its flowering period is long, lasting up to three months, with successive blooms.

The round buds resemble strings of pearls, and the flowers are reminiscent of plums. It is an excellent flowering shrub for summer, suitable for mass or row planting in gardens and pairs well with other ornamental plants.

The flower clusters can also be used as cut flowers. With its high ornamental value, it is an excellent plant for beautifying and purifying the environment.

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Peggie was once a high school mathematics teacher, but she set aside her chalkboard and textbooks to follow her lifelong passion for flowers. After years of dedication and learning, she not only established a thriving flower shop but also founded this blog, “Flowers Library”. If you have any questions or wish to learn more about flowers, feel free to contact Peggie.

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