Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Swamp Fetterbush - Eubotrys racemosus   (L.) Nuttall
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Section 6 » Order Ericales » Family Ericaceae
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Author(L.) Nuttall
DistributionThroughout the Coastal Plain and the eastern and central Piedmont. Scattered in the western Piedmont and the southern mountains.

This is essentially a Coastal Plain and Piedmont species. It ranges from NY and MA southward to central FL and eastern TX. It is not found in the Great Lakes states or in WV or KY.
AbundanceCommon and widespread over most of its range in the state. However, rare or local in the western Piedmont and mountains. Apparently not common in some eastern Coastal Plain counties.
HabitatThis is a widespread species in forested wetlands, usually where there is some standing water. Occurs in swamps, wooded pools, wet bottomlands, stream margins, and pocosins.
See also Habitat Account for General Wet-Mesic Acidic Shrublands
PhenologyBlooms from late March to early June; fruits in September and October. This species is known for its flower buds developing in summer and remaining on the twigs all winter, before blooming in spring.
IdentificationThis is a rather ordinary-looking medium-sized deciduous shrub with closely serrate, elliptical leaves, growing from 5-12’ tall. Without the inflorescence, it is tricky to identify, especially from Sweet-spires (Itea virginica). However, Swamp Fetterbush usually has parts of the inflorescences visible on its twigs, and the white, urn-shaped flowers grow on only one side of the stem, dangling downward in a conspicuous manner. Sweet-spires has “bottle-brush” flower clusters and capsules on all sides of the stems.
Taxonomic CommentsMost previous references placed this deciduous species in the genus Leucothoe, with various evergreen species, and named as L. racemosa. Much older references considered this as a variety – Leucothoe racemosa var. projecta.

Other Common Name(s)The two deciduous species have numerous common names in frequent use. Others include Coastal Fetterbush, Swamp Doghobble, Swamp Sweetbells, Swamp Leucothoe. Basically, then, there is no consistent common name for this shrub!
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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