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What is Drimys?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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Drimys is a plant genus that is part of the Winteraceae family. It consists of about eight species of evergreen flowering shrubs that are native to North and South America. They feature lance-shaped leaves, fragrant flowers, and black fruits. Plants of this genus are commonly used as border shrubs or container plants. Most of the species are adaptable to different soil types, and they are generally free of pests and diseases.

The name of this plant genus is a Greek word that means "acrid" or "pungent," which aptly describes the unsavory taste of the bark. The common names for plants in the Drimys genus include mountain pepper, which describes Drimys lanceolata, and winter's bark, which describes Drimys winteri. Another species within this genus is Drimys colorata, and it is known as the pepper tree.

This genus of plants is particularly interesting to scientists because of its unique biology. The plants in the Drimys genus are angiosperms that lack vessels in their water-conducting tissues. Angiosperms may have tracheids, vessels, or both in their water-conducting tissue, which is the cellular structure responsible for transporting water from the roots to the rest of the plant. The lack of these vessels indicates that the plants in the Drimys genus diverged from the angiosperm evolutionary line at some point.

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Most of the species in this genus are located in Mexico, Central America, and South America. D. brasiliensis is distributed from southern Mexico down to southern Brazil. D. winteri is located in southern Chile and southwestern Argentina. D. andina is cultivated in Chile.

D. lanceolata or mountain pepper is commonly used in landscaping because of its form and features. Typically, the shrub has a dense upright form that measures 13 feet (4 m) in height and about 8 feet (2.5 m) in width. The glossy, dark green leaves have a leathery texture, while the clusters of pale yellow and white flowers are fragrant. It is recommended to remove dead or damaged stems after the flowering period each year. This shrub is resistant to fungal diseases and isn't prone to insect infestation.

Generally, D. lanceolata can thrive in most types of soil including loamy, clay, and sandy soil. As long as the soil is fertile and well-draining, the shrub will do fine. The area in which the shrub is planted can be partially shaded from the sun or exposed to direct sunlight. D. lanceolata should be planted in an area that is somewhat sheltered.

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