Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Virginia Sweetspire - Itea virginica   L.Only member of Itea in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Rosales » Family Iteaceae
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DistributionThroughout the Coastal Plain, nearly throughout the Piedmont (except in the far northwestern corner), and through the central and southern Mountains. It appears to be legitimately absent from 10-12 counties close to the VA and TN borders in northwestern NC.

This is mainly a Southern species, ranging north to NJ and PA, south to southern FL and eastern TX. It is absent from OH and WV and generally in the Midwest.
AbundanceFrequent to common, and generally widespread, over the Coastal Plain and the eastern half of the Piedmont and southern Mountains (at low elevations). Fairly common in much of the western half of the Piedmont. Possibly absent in the far northwest. Note that the state rank of S5 is defensible and correct, despite a rarer global rank (G4). Why NatureServe gives this a G4 global rank instead of a seemingly obvious G5 rank is unknown and surprising.
HabitatThis is a wetland species found mostly along forested stream banks, and also away from streamsides in bottomland forests, woodland pools, swamps, and wet thickets.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June, and fruits shortly thereafter.
IdentificationThis is a medium-sized deciduous shrub with spreading, slender branches and growing to about 5-6 feet tall. It has rather ordinary-looking elliptic (to almost oblong) and slightly serrate leaves, to about 3 inches long. The gestalt of the plants and the wetland habitat are quite similar to those of Eubotrys racemosus. However, Itea can usually be told by its green twigs (as opposed to gray or brown) and, if present, the inflorescence. Thankfully, flowers, buds, or old fruit are often present; the species has very conspicuous “bottle-brush” white inflorescences composed of many small flowers in a 3-4-inch-long raceme. Also, the fruits are narrowly tubular capsules and not rounded capsules as found in Eubotrys. As Itea is the only member of its genus in North America, it is quite unique when seen in flower.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Virginia-willow, Sweet-spire, Tassel-white
State RankS5
Global RankG4 [G5]
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empOBL link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieMargin of Savannah Creek, late May 2008. AnsonPhoto_natural
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