Sweet Pepperbush

Sweet_Pepperbush_jpgThe family name (Clethraceae) and genus name (Clethra) is from the Greek Clethra meaning “alder”.  The species name alnifoliameans “leaves like alder”.  The Common Name is derived from the spicy-sweet fragrant white flowers and the gray fruit that resembles peppercorns. Sweet Pepperbush inhabits low, moist to wet, often sandy, ground of woods, swamps, shaded edges.  It is an indicator of wetlands.  Trees that associate with Sweet Pepperbush include red maple, sweet gum, black gum, Atlantic white-cedar and pitch pine. The blooms are frequently visited by honeybees and other nectar-feeding insects. Winter identification is aided by the persistent clusters of capsules, each with the flower’s former style still protruding from the center.

OtherCommonName:

White-Alder, Coast White-Alder, Soapbush

ScientificName:

Clethra alnifolia

Community:

Thicket

PlantStatus:

Native

LifeSpan:

Woody Shrub

PlantHeight:

10 feet

FruitingTime:

September to October

Distribution:

Maine to Florida ~ Statewide in New Jersey

FloweringTime:

Late July to September

IdentifyingCharacteristics:

Shrub ~ Leaves alternate, simple, oval or oblong, 1 ½ to 4 inches long, toothed ~ Stems slender, reddish, becoming gray and rough with age ~ Flowers perfect, white, 5-petaled, borne upright 2 to 6 inches long clusters, blooming from the base upward, sweet fragrance ~ Fruit dry capsule, hairy, contain numerous small winged seeds, persist through winter