Hydrangea (pronounced /haɪˈdreɪndʒⁱə/, common names Hydrangea and Hortensia) is a genus of about 70 to 75 species of flowering plants native to southern and eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, and Indonesia) and North and South America. By far the greatest species diversity is in eastern Asia, notably China, Japan, and Korea. Most are shrubs 1 to 3 meters tall, but some are small trees, and others lianas reaching up to 30 m by climbing up trees. They can be either deciduous or evergreen, though the widely cultivated temperate species are all deciduous.
Having been introduced to the Azores Islands of Portugal, they are now very common there, particularly on Faial Island, which is known as the "blue island" due to the vast number of hydrangeas present on the island, and on Flores Island.
Species in the related genus Schizophragma, also in Hydrangeaceae, are also often known as hydrangeas. Schizophragma hydrangeoides and Hydrangea petiolaris are both commonly known as climbing hydrangeas.
There are two flower arrangements in hydrangeas. Mophead flowers are large round flowerheads resembling pom-poms or, as the name implies, the head of a mop. In contrast, lacecap flowers bear round, flat flowerheads with a center core of subdued, fertile flowers surrounded by outer rings of showy, sterile flowers.
Hydrangea flowers are produced from early spring to late autumn; they grow in flowerheads (corymbs or panicles) at the ends of the stems. In many species, the flowerheads contain two types of flowers, small fertile flowers in the middle of the flowerhead, and large, sterile bract-like flowers in a ring around the edge of each flowerhead. Other species have all the flowers sterile and of the same size.
Colours and acidity
In most species the flowers are white, but in some species (notably H. macrophylla), can be blue, red, pink, light purple, or dark purple. In these species the exact colour often mirrors the pH of the soil; acidic soils produce blue flowers, neutral soils produce very pale cream petals, and alkaline soils results in pink or purple. This is caused by a color change of the flower pigments in the presence of aluminium ions which can be taken up into hyperaccumulating plants.
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