Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Silverleaf Hydrangea - Hydrangea radiata   Walter
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Section 6 » Order Rosales » Family Hydrangeaceae
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AuthorWalter
DistributionThis species, as with Hydrangea cinerea, is limited in the state to the southwestern portions. It occurs in the mountains north only to Madison County and to Polk County on the east. It likely is not found into the Piedmont foothills.

This is a Southern Appalachian endemic, being found only north to the middle portions of the NC and TN mountains, and south to northwestern SC and northern GA. It is limited to just these four states.
AbundanceFairly common to often common, and easily seen from wooded roadsides. Seems to be about as common as H. arborescens, but much more common than is H. cinerea.
HabitatThis is a species of cool and rocky places, but it seems to favor roadbanks, as it often grows extensively there and thus the silvery-white leaf undersides are very conspicuous, especially if driving such roads at night (as the leaves “glow” in headlights). It occurs on shaded banks and other rocky forests, as well, but it definitely does well in partial sunlight.
PhenologyBlooms and fruits from May to July.
IdentificationThis is a medium-sized deciduous shrub growing to about 5-6’ tall, and as with the other hydrangeas, it has a thick and wide “bushy” look. The large, opposite and widely ovate leaves, with long petioles, are silvery-white below and easily attract attention; the white hairs below are so thick that they cover up the green scales of the leaves. Also, the inflorescence has many more, and larger, sterile white flowers around the margins, making this the most attractive of the three species of hydrangeas in the state.
Taxonomic CommentsThis taxon, as was H. cinerea, was formerly considered as a part of H. arborescens, such as in RAB (1968), as H. arborescens ssp. radiata. Most references now split these three into good species.

Other Common Name(s)Snowy Hydrangea
State RankS3 [S4]
Global RankG5?
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