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Itea virginica L.Author(s): K.F Connor
Source: In: Francis, John K. ed. 2004. Wildland shrubs of the United States and its Territories: thamnic descriptions: volume 1. Gen. Tech. Rep. IITF-GTR-26. San Juan, PR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, and Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 391-392.
Publication Series: Paper (invited, offered, keynote)
Station: International Institute of Tropical Forestry
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DescriptionVirginia sweetspire is an upright, multistemmed, deciduous or semievergreen shrub with arching branches. The branches are light green or brown, pubescent when young, while old stems are glabrous, gray and striated. The medium to dark green, simple, alternate leaves are elliptic to oblong in shape, glabrous above and finely pubescent beneath, four to 10 cm long, and have finely toothed margins. The plants are noted for their racemes of white flowers in early summer and their brilliant red to reddish purple foliage in autumn. Leaves can remain on the plant in a mild winter or in the more southern hardiness zones. Virginia sweetspire can occasionally attain the form of a small tree. The species is found throughout the Southeastern United States, from the Atlantic to eastern Texas and Oklahoma. It can be found in wetlands as far north as Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey and as far south as Florida. It is also found in southern Illinois and throughout the Mississippi River Valley. Virginia sweetspire grows primarily in wet areas, in swamps, along stream beds and lake edges, and in floodplains where it can form thickets. It can thrive in a variety of soil types and pHs. The species is tolerant of various light regimes and will grow well in both the sun and the shade. However, it flowers more prolifically and has optimal fall coloration when grown in full sun. The species is highly adaptable and tough. It is named for its 5 to 15 cm-long pubescent, terminal racemes of fragrant, white flowers that occur from early spring to early summer. Individual flowers have five petals and five sepals and are small, only 6 to 9 mm across, and are attractive to butterflies. Brown seeds are produced in small elongate capsules with cranesbill-like projections. Although the dry fruit capsules and small seeds are not a preferred food, they are eaten by birds. The species can be used for erosion control on wet or sloped sites.
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CitationConnor, K.F. 2004. Itea virginica L. In: Francis, John K. ed. 2004. Wildland shrubs of the United States and its Territories: thamnic descriptions: volume 1. Gen. Tech. Rep. IITF-GTR-26. San Juan, PR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, and Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 391-392.
KeywordsItea virginica, species description, sweetspire
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