Mark A. Miller
Plant Common Name
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A woodland shrub that is the perfect barometer for the start of spring, leatherwood's flexible stems, early spring yellow flowers make it lovely for planting among rhododendrons and shade trees. A deciduous, slow-growing rounded shrub, it is native from southeastern Canada to Missouri and Florida in the eastern United States. Its smooth, dark sandy brown bark is fibrous and spotted with white lenticels.
This shrub is among the first to flower and leaf-out each spring. Before any foliage, the tiny yellow-green, trumpet-like flowers occur in threes on the flexible twigs. These twigs are so pliable that it is possible to tie them into a knot; an aroma is released when the stem is broken. After the flowers the light green leaves appear, first fuzzy and then unfurling fully to become perfectly tapered ovals. The summer-ripening small fruits are reddish green. In autumn the foliage can become a clear yellow, depending on individual.
Grow leatherwood in partial sun to partial shade in a moist, humus-rich, acidy soil. It will tolerate full sun in cool, mild summer regions accompanied by rich organic soils. Use this as a modest ornamental in a woodland garden or shady foundation bed. It is a great companion for evergreen rhododendrons, azaleas, and mountain laurels.
AHS Heat Zone
9 - 1
USDA Hardiness Zone
4 - 9
A2, A3, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17
Partial Sun, Partial Shade
4'-6' / 1.2m - 1.8m
3'-6' / 0.9m - 1.8m
North America, United States, Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, Central United States, Canada
Spring, Summer, Fall
Foundation, Mixed Border
Sharp or Has Thorns