Also Known As: Hydrangea , Hortensia

Hydrangea 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 metres 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, which is known as the "blue island" due to the vast number of hydrangeas present on the island, Terceira, named the "lilac island" for hydrangeas of that colour, on Flores Island ("Island of Flowers") and São Miguel, named the "green island" for its floral biodiversity.

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.

In Japan, ama-cha, meaning sweet tea, is another herbal tea made from Hydrangea serrata, whose leaves contain a substance that develops a sweet taste (phyllodulcin). For the fullest taste, fresh leaves are crumpled, steamed, and dried, yielding dark brown tea leaves. Ama-cha is mainly used for kan-butsu-e (the Buddha bathing ceremony) on April 8 every year—the day thought to be Buddha's birthday in Japan. Ama-cha is poured over a statue of Buddha in the ceremony and served to people in attendance. A legend has it that on the day Buddha was born, nine dragons poured Amrita over him; ama-cha is substituted for Amrita in Japan.

Hydrangeas are moderately toxic if eaten, with all parts of the plant containing cyanogenic glycosides.[5] Hydrangea paniculata is reportedly sometimes smoked as an intoxicant, despite the danger of illness and/or death due to the cyanide.[6]

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