Coast Pepperbush
Clethra alnifolia
Family Clethraceae

* Leaves short-pointed, wedge-shaped, and most broad near the tip toothed only far half. 1 1/2-3" long.
* Flowers in loose spikes. White, strongly aromatic.
* Fruits also in loose spikes, 3-parted, dry.
* Twigs, end buds hairy.
* Older bark grayish, flaky.
* Height: To 10'.

Natural History:
* Flowers July - September.
* Habitat: Swamps, bogs, wet sandy soils, lake and pond sides.
* Range: East coast of the United States.
* Native.

* The Coast Pepperbush's lilac-scented blossoms have earned it the name Sweet Pepperbush. The flowers mature from the bottom up, with only a few new blossoms opening each day. Each blossom on the spike is proterandrous, which means it is first male and second female; as the spike comes into flower, the bottom blossoms become female as the top ones, newly open, are male. This design is ingenious, as it fits the behavior of the bees which pollinate the flower. The insects start at the bottom of the spike and crawl upward, so as they leave the top of one spike covered with pollen from the male flowers, they will land on a new spike and pollinate the female flowers at the spike's base. Hence the spikes are cross-pollinated and both the bee and the pepperbush gain from their symbiotic relationship.

* The coast pepperbush is easily cultivated, and when cared for in the garden, the flower spikes dramatically increase in size, releasing a wonderful aroma when in flower. The species receives its name from the peppercorn shape of its seeds.




Created by: Allaire Diamond and Jiasuey Hsu
Maintained by: Nick Rodenhouse
Created: July 31, 1998
Last Modified: November 21, 2008