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Staphylea - Growing Guide
Commonly known as ‘Bladder-Nuts’
Staphylea are superb bushy (sometimes multi-stemmed) deciduous shrubs that mature eventually into small trees. Species of Bladder-Nut originate from right across the northern hemisphere and are totally hardy. S. pinnata is European; S. colchica is from the Caucasus, S. holocarpa is Chinese, S. trifoliata and S. bolanderi are North American.
All species have dainty pinnate leaves with three, five or seven leaflets, an upright habit and racemes or terminal panicles of white or white flushed pink in early or mid spring. The flowers are attractive and unusual enough in themselves to merit growing these plants. However, through the summer, the flower panicles develop large green bladders of up to 2in in size sometimes in pairs or trios. These are very noticeable as they form and even more so as they turn pink and red in the autumn. Once the leaf drops they stand proud on the tree for a while although they are well ripe by then.
As children we used to collect these ‘Chinese lanterns’ as we called them and pop them to extract the seeds. If stored over winter these germinate quickly in the spring. We have a detailed article on how to collect and store seeds if you are interested in learning more.
S. bumalda grows to 3-6ft (more in Cornwall) and has three leaflets.
S. colchica grows to 10-12ft and has three to five leaflets. The bladders are greenish white.
S. holocarpa grows to 20ft or more and three leaflets. The flowers have a pinkish line. The bladders are greenish white turning pink.
S. pinnata grows to 12-15ft with five to seven leaflets and the bladders are pinkish with hints of red.
S. trifoliata grows 10-15ft with three leaflets. The bladders are yellow with more pink in full sun.
These excellent shrubs take up little room and are easy to grow in a moist woodland environment in sun or partial shade. It is unfortunate that they are still so little grown or appreciated. Naming them all can cause a bit of fun with experts too!