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DIRCA palustris

Image of Dirca palustris

Mark A. Miller

Family

Thymelaeaceae

Botanical Name

DIRCA palustris

Plant Common Name

Leatherwood

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

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.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    A2, A3, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    4'-6' / 1.2m - 1.8m

  • Width

    3'-6' / 0.9m - 1.8m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring

  • Native To

    North America, United States, Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, Central United States, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Light Yellow, Yellow Green

  • Fruit Color

    Light Green, Copper

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Yellow Green

  • Bark Color

    Brown, Sandy Brown

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Foundation, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No