Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Plant of the Week: American Snowbell (Styrax americanus)

I will never forget the first time I encountered this beautiful deciduous shrub in the wild.  I was working on the rare wildflower book and was out at Land Between the Lakes looking for Trepocarpus (not a very showy plant at all).  As I was walking along the shore next to the woods I saw a beautiful shrub that at first glance looked like a honeysuckle because it was covered in dainty white flowers and it smelled fantastic.  As I approached I realized it wasn't a honeysuckle at all, rather the American snowbell. This shrub does very well in the landscape because it is a wetland species that likes moist soil and partial shade, although it will grow in full sun.  It has a preference for acidic soils but does just fine in the limestone soils of central Kentucky.  While it can reach heights of 10 to 15' tall, I rarely see it get over 6 to 8' tall and it has a very open canopy form with simple, alternate elliptical shaped leaves that are smooth below and slightly hairy above. While the bark is generally a gray color on the main stem, individual branches can vary in color from reddish to brownish to greenish and as they age the go from slightly hairy to smooth.  The showy flowers are quite fragrant and are pollinated by bees and this is a primary host plant for promethea moth (Callosamia promethea). This is a relatively fast growing shrub and it is easily propagated from softwood cuttings.  A number of nurseries sell this species and some even carry large balled and burlap specimens.  This is a wonderful addition to a woodland garden and would work nicely with Carolina Silverbell and Flowering Dogwood as understory species because it flowers in April.

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