Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’
Sweet pepperbush is native to the temperate regions of eastern North America. This cultivated variety is smaller than the original, more regular in shape, and with more flowers. It has escaped cultivation is increasingly replacing the original variety. Pepperbush has no relation to peppercorns or peppers, but its seed capsules resemble peppercorns.
Identification: This deciduous woody shrub, 24-48" (60-121 cm) tall and 3-5' (91-152 cm) around, has multiple stems, is most often found near fresh water in areas that are at least seasonally wet. The shrubs form densely packed colonies. Leaves are dense, alternate, 1½-4" (3.8-10 cm) long and 1-2" (2.5-5 cm) wide. The leaves have a prominent vein structure and serrated edges, and are usually shaped like ovals with pointed ends. In the fall, they are yellow-green to yellow-brown. The pleasant-smelling flowers are white, in narrow cone-like clusters 4" (10 cm) × ¾" (1.9 cm). Individual flowers are ⅛-⅜" (5-10 mm) around. In the fall, the flowerheads are filled with small oval seed capsules that persist through the winter. Each capsule has three sections.
Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’ at the University of Connecticut Plant Database
Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’ at the Ohio State University PLANTFacts database
Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’ at the Missouri Botanical Garden
Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’ description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 2 Jan 2019.
Range: Zones 3-9: