by Don Robinson
is a deciduous shrub or small tree species to 35 feet tall.
It has two winter buds, the lower most bud is almost hidden by the leaf
scar. The leaf scar is crescent
shaped. The pith is diaphragmed and
chambered between the diaphragms. Pubescence, where evident, is stellate. The leaves are alternate, simple, slender, short-petiolate,
without stipules; blades are pinnately veined.
The young stems, axes of the florescence, flower stalks, and calyxes are
sparsely to densely pubescent. The
flowers are showy, pendant, in fascicles or short racemes, bisexual, &
develop from the axils of the leaf scars from the wood of the previous season as
new shoots emerge. The flowers are
white overall and showy. The fruit
is a two to four winged dry pod that contains one to three seeds.
Halesia diptera is a tree reaching 35 feet in height which can
flower at an early shrub stage. The
leaves are broadly oval, broadly ovate, or subobicular, 2 1/2 - 4 1/2 inches
long and 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 inches wide. The
leaf margins are irregularly dentate - serrate, teeth gland tipped, both top and
bottom of the leaf surfaces are sparsely pubescent, the lower leaf surface is
The flowers are 5/8 - 1 1/4
inches long, bell shaped, deeply 4-lobed, white corolla in drooping clusters of
three to six on long stalks on the previous years twigs, blooming in the spring.
The fruit is a long oblong pod with two wings that are brown when ripe. The name 'diptera', means two winged, di - two, and pteron - wing.
This is a beautiful understudy
tree that grows in mesic woodlands of bluffs, ravines, uplands, and on slight
rises of stream and river flood plains. It
grows from Southeast South Carolina to western panhandle of Florida, Alabama,
southern Mississippi to east Texas.
There is a variety of diptera
called 'magniflora' that has larger flowers and grows in more of a mesic
woodland habitat than the normal H.
diptera. It is also more
restrictive in its range, growing in southwest Georgia, the panhandle of Florida
and southeast Alabama.
Halesia carolina is a small tree with streaked bark.
The leaves differ from the previous species by being elliptic, oblong, or
slightly ovate, 3 - 6 inches long and 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 inches wide, and finely saw
toothed. The leaf surfaces are
sparsely pubescent (mostly when emerging) to glabrous, and the lower surfaces
are mostly pubescent on major veins.
The flowers are bell shaped, with
the lobes more rounded than on the species diptera,
1/2 - 1 inch long, and white (sometimes with a pinkish shade).
They are born on drooping clusters of two to five flowers per stalk.
They appear in the spring on the previous years growth.
The fruit is a 1 1/4 - 2 inch
long pod with four wings and one to three seeds per pod, and are mature when
This species of silverbell is
more widespread than the two-winged silverbell.
It occurs from southern West
Virginia south to north central Florida, northwest to southern Illinois, and
local to southeast Oklahoma.
It grows on wooded slopes in
mesic forests, bluffs, ravines and wooded riverbanks. It appears as far south as Citrus County, but I have
suspicions that it may occur in the mesic forests of Hernando County.
Native plant nurseries throughout the state generally carry silverbells. I have both species planted in a sandhill ecosystem and they are doing better that I expected them to do. They have even made it through two dry spells with no setbacks. I have them planted in part sun and heavily mulched with oak leaves. They have bloomed and produced fruit, which became food for somebody before I could collect it. These trees should do well in almost any situation if given the right conditions. Give it a try, and good luck!
R.K., and J.W. Wooten. Aquatic
and Wetland Plants of the Southeastern United States: Monocots and Dicots. University of Georgia Press: Athens, GA.
R.K., and J.W. Wooten. Trees,
Shrubs, and Woody Vines of Northern Florida and Adjacent Georgia and Alabama.
University of Georgia Press: Athens, GA.
1981 (The illustrations in the article are from this reference
Elbert. National Audubon Field
Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region.
Knopf: New York, NY. 1980
ã April 1998
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