a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

My Tetradium daniellii or Bee-Bee tree

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Tetradium daniellii is such a mouthful of a name for a tree. Especially as this tree can be known as Evodia or “Arbre à miel” or “Arbre aux abeilles”. I first heard it mentioned by bee keepers in France who talked in reverential  tones about trees they had seen, but it appeared rare here, and I had never seen one.

I decided to buy one but this proved difficult to source here until I found one listed on the online site Planfor. Here, I made a mistake with my button finger and ended up with an 11 cm. plant! It was duly planted in November of 2014. I did source another larger tree in a pot from another nursery but that tree did not survive, so I had little hope for the 11 cm. stick.

I was wrong to be pessamistic. After a slowish start the tree grew rapidly but I had no idea of how long the tree would take to produce the first flowers. In July of 2018 we had the first flowers from the Bee-Bee tree.

What impressed me most was that the honeybees were attracted to the flowers almost before they opened and worked at the flowers to gain access to the nectar.

I think you can almost see the bee smiling.

The little flowers contain large amounts of nectar and also provide a yellow pollen. It is impressive to see the number of bees of all sorts that the tree attracts.

So this year in January 2020 we bought another Tetradium darlienii from the same online nursery, but with more confidence we invested in a larger potted plant.

We were very excited to see it push forth its new shoots at the end of January. Such pretty new leaves too!

So this year we have had two surprises. Firstly, it flowered in the summer time and secondly the flowers produced seeds!

The seed pods are an attractive pink colour.

As the seeds ripen the pods open to reveal the black seeds. These are reputed to be eaten by the birds but I quickly gathered mine. I will be interested to see if I can germinate them in the springtime.

So why has my first Tertradium not produced any seeds?

Some sources say that the Tetradium daniellii is dioecious – that is that you get male and female flowers on the same plant. That would surely mean that I should have already had seeds on my older tree.

Other sources say that the tree is monoecious – that is individuals either produce male or female flowers.

That would mean that my first tree produces only male flowers and my new tree produces only female flowers.

However, yet other sources say that individuals can be monoecious or dioeceious. So my first tree could be male and my second produce both male and female flowers.

Luckily the bees do not care as both male and female flowers produce the nectar and pollen that they seek.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

14 thoughts on “My Tetradium daniellii or Bee-Bee tree

  1. Hello Amelia,
    A wonderful review, and by coincidence, I’ve just bought a tiny one this year, after finding it on a list of the best nectar/pollen sources for bees later in the year, I think. But I clearly need one or two more! Wonderful that you’re getting so many flowers and seeds so quickly – we’re getting to an age where waiting for something to flower in 15 or 20 years, doesn’t seem so appealing!
    Best wishes
    Julian

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    • What more could a beekeeper want? A fast growing tree that flowers relatively quickly and I’ve read produces a high volume of nectar per flower. So far it does not attract any diseases either. If you have the space…Amelia

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      • Thanks Amelia, I did check and the nursery I’d found in the UK only had 1 small plant left – I’d tried to order 3 I think, so will have to hope they get more for next year. I’ve always found here that smaller trees seem to grow away better if you can keep the rabbits away from them! Do you have a rabbit or squirrel issue?
        BW
        Julian

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        • It seems a tree that is difficult to get hole off, despite the fact that it seems relatively easy to propagate. Kourosh has meantime taken two root cuttings and some branch cuttings of our tree and I have sown the seeds. At the moment we have no rabbit or squirrel problems. We have more hares near us and they do not seem to come into the garden. I’ve only seen one red squirrel in the garden, and yet our hazelnuts disappear rapidly. Amelia

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  2. Fascinating. It looks familiar from somewhere Is it perfumed?

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  3. I have never noticed seed on this tree in my garden but love it nonetheless and it certainly lives up to its reputation of being attractive to trees. I grew it from seed about 25 years ago and am delighted to have it in the garden. There is a very big specimen in Mount Congreve Gardens which are near me.

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  4. Hallo Amelia, it’s funny to read how we beekeepers, no matter where we live, do tend to make the same choices for our gardens. I have two Evodias here. I bought them in 2017 as young saplings of perhaps 3 years old. Last summer was the first time one of them flowered. All sorts of bees here were attracted to it and it flowered for quite a few weeks. Hopefully the other tree will play catch up during next year and provide even more delight. Because of my happiness with the flowering Evodia I also bought a packet of about 100 seeds this year, planted them according to packet instructions but none of which came up. Maybe more luck in the future with our own trees. Happy planting everyone.

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  5. How fascinating! The tree has many beautiful aspects and it attracts bees of all kinds. Have you read Dave Goulson’s latest book about gardens?

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    • The latest book I read was “The Garden Jungle”. It was the first book I got on the Kindle edition. I thought it woud be easier to read if I was moving around. Bad choice! Kindle is great for stories but not for this sort of book. I could not look back on things. You can annotate the Kindle but you often do not know what you will want to look back on later! His “Gardening for Bumblebees” is not out until April 2021. I would like to look at it first as it could be a bit repetitive. I have read all his books and loved all of them. Amelia

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  6. I have not read “The Garden Jungle” and was unaware of the forthcomng bumblebee gardening book. It does sound like it might be going over old ground.

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