December 18
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Plant Genus of the family Anacardiaceae

Genus Description Cultivation
Amherstia The single species of this genus is one of the most striking tropical leguminous trees in flower. Related to the poinciana (Delonix), it originates from the lowlands of southern Myanmar but is now almost unknown in the wild. The renowned Dr Wallich of the Calcutta Botanic Garden named the genus in 1829 for Lady Sarah Amherst, a keen amateur botanist whose husband was Governor-General of India. The tree, which may be briefly deciduous, has long pinnate leaves, the glossy leaflets contracted into fine points. At the start of the tropical wet season there emerge flushes of pale bronzy pink new leaves that hang limply for some weeks before changing through brown to green and straightening out. The flowers hang below the branches on long stalks, opening in a downward succession with a pair of large pink bracts at the base of each flower. The orchid-like flowers are up to 4 in (10 cm) across, pinkish red with darker red and yellow markings. Rarely produced are the curved woody pods that are deep red when immature. CULTIVATION: Amherstia has been successfully cultivated only in the lowland wet tropics and even there it can be a chancy subject. Growth is fairly slow and it requires a sheltered but sunny situation and deep moist soil. Propagation is ideally from seed but this is very seldom set on cultivated trees. An alternative means is layering of low branches.
Anacardium This tropical American genus of 11 species includes the cashew (Anacardium occidentale) whose seed kernel is one of the world?s most popular nuts. The genus is related to the mango genus (Mangifera); a resemblance is evident in the single-seeded fruits curved to one side. Anacardium species are evergreen or semi-deciduous trees, small to medium-sized with simple, smooth-edged, rather leathery leaves. Flowers are small and subdued in color but carried in large panicles, followed over a period by the distinctive fruit?these are each attached to a swollen juicy stalk, resembling a fruit itself and edible. The true fruit is smaller, curved like the enclosed seed, which is covered by a thin flesh that contains a dangerously caustic juice. CULTIVATION: The cashew is successfully grown in those large areas of the tropics that experience a monsoonal climate with a long dry season. In the wetter tropics it is more prone to pests and diseases, and the fruit develops poorly. It survives a little way beyond the tropics but does not thrive, and is quite intolerant of frost. Well-drained sandy soils of moderate fertility are preferred and they tolerate exposure to fierce sun or coastal salt spray. Propagation is from seed, from selected high-yielding trees. The best cultivars are sometimes increased by grafting, cuttings or air-layering but these techniques are slower and more difficult.
Cotinus This genus contains 3 species of deciduous trees or shrubs found in North America and across southern Europe to central China. It belongs to the same family as Rhus, to which it is closely related, and like members of that genus can cause contact dermatitis. Cotinus are valuable garden plants having a long season of interest. In summer myriads of tiny flowers are borne on long panicles giving a hazy effect to the plant, hence the common name of smoke bush. In autumn their broadly oval leaves color to shades of red, yellow and orange. CULTIVATION: Smoke bushes will grow in a wide range of soils and climatic conditions but are best in a well-drained site in full sun. As with many trees from cool-temperate climates, better autumn colors are achieved where winters are cold. Prune to remove dead wood or to shorten long straggly branches. Propagation is from seed sown in autumn or hardwood cuttings in late summer.
Rhus There are about 200 species of deciduous or evergreen trees, shrubs and climbers in this genus within the family Anacardiaceae. Widely distributed throughout the temperate and subtropical regions of the world, they are used to produce laquer, tannin, dyes, wax and drinks. Some species, such as poison ivy and poison oak, promote dermatitis and have been re-classified into the genus, Toxicodendron. Rhus are mainly grown in the garden for their good autumn color, interesting foliage and fruit, which can persist on the tree into winter and often drops off only when the new leaves appear. CULTIVATION: Rhus species grow in full sun in moderately fertile, moist but free-draining soil with shelter from the wind. Propagate from root cuttings in winter, half-hardened stem cuttings in late summer or divided root suckers taken when the plant is dormant. Seed can be sown in autumn. Feed and water well during growing season; in winter, don?t feed at all and water sparingly.
Toxicodendron Widely distributed in temperate and subtropical regions of North America and East Asia, this is a genus of 6 to 9 species of trees, shrubs and woody climbers containing a milky or resinous sap that is highly caustic and capable of producing dermatitis or a severe allergic reaction in susceptible people. It is very closely related to Rhus and some highly noxious species that were previously included in Rhus have been transferred to this genus, including the poison ivy of North America, Toxicodendron radicans. The cultivation of a few species is prohibited in some places; however, when Toxicodendron species are cultivated, they are grown mainly for their brilliantly colored autumn foliage and sometimes ornamental fruit. CULTIVATION: Frost hardy, these plants require full sun and a well-drained soil. Locate as background plants away from lawns or walkways, where people are least likely to touch them. Propagate from seed in summer, or cuttings.

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