A small tree with pleasing willowy foliage, leaves ¼ inch wide and 3 inches long, and striking red bottlebrush flowers, mostly in summer. When the flowers go, groups of seed capsules encircle the branchlets like knobby sleeves, where they remain for years without releasing their powdery seed. The sleeves of previous years can be tracked back along the branches where they may in due course become engulfed by new wood. Gardeners may find that pruning the dead flowers improves flowering. Hummingbirds and orioles visit the flowers for the nectar, as do destructive squirrels. Australians steeped the flowers in water to make a bush remedy for sore throats.
Several examples are growing at the Police Station facing Serra Street and across the street in Escondido Village. The Junipero Serra Boulevard greenbelt uses C. viminalis as part of the screening shrubbery. A specimen of C. citrinus, the tough shrub with the same showy bottlebrushes, can be seen near the group of C. viminalis at the Police Station.
Dwarf bottlebrush, Callistemon ‘Little John’ was planted in 2013 along Bonair siding where it crosses the center divider of the two one-way lanes of Campus Drive; in bloom January, 2014.
Name derivation: Callistemon – Greek kallistos, most beautiful, and stemon, a stamen, in reference to the characteristic long, showy stamens; viminalis – Latin, with long, flexible twigs.
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. Note on Litte John and key added by John Rawlings.