fbpx Persian ironwood | The Morton Arboretum

Persian ironwood

Mature specimen of Persian ironwood.

Persian parrotia or Persian ironwood is a small upright tree or large, rounded, multi-stemmed shrub. Related to witch-hazel, the oblong green leaves turn various shades of red, orange and yellow in the fall, often persisting into the winter months. The mature bark exfoliates to patches of green, tan, and white.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Parrotia persica

All common names:

Persian ironwood, parrotia, Persian parrotia

Family (English):

Witch Hazel

Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Specimen,
  • Utility,
  • Windbreak

Size Range:

  • medium tree (25-40 feet),
  • Small tree (15-25 feet),
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet),
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)

Mature Height:

20-40 feet

Mature Width:

15-30 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils:

  • Prefers

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Ornamental Interest:

  • Attractive bark

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Oval,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • No

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Tolerant of a wide range of conditions.  Prune after flowering in spring.

Disease, pests, and problems

Japanese beetles are a potential problem.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Iran.

Bark color and texture 

The bark of young trees is smooth and gray.  Mature trees show a distinctly mottled bark with patches of white, gray and green.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

The simple, alternate leaves are 2 to 5 inches long.  The upper third of the leaf is very coarsely toothed, while the lower two thirds of the leaf is entire.  Overall, the leaf closely resembles the leaf of witchhazel.  Leaves are dark green in summer, changing to a mix of yellow, red and orange.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

The flowers which emerge in spring have no petals and so usually do not get noticed.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

The fruit is a small capsule; not ornamentally important.

Cultivars and their differences

Persian Spire™ Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica 'JLColumnar'): A cultivar with an upright-oval form; 25 feet high by 10 feet wide.  New leaves emerge purple and retain some purple tint throughout summer.  Excellent fall color (orange, red and yellow).

Ruby Vase® Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica 'Inge's Ruby Vase'):  A cultivar with a narrow-upright form; 30 feet high by 15 feet wide.  New leaves emerge red.  Fall color is orange-red.

Vanessa Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'): Vase-shaped cultivar; 30 feet high by 15 feet wide.  Fall color is orange-red.

Location of Parrotia persica (Persian ironwood) at the Arboretum