Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Scentless Mock-orange - Philadelphus inodorus   L.
Members of Hydrangeaceae:
Members of Philadelphus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Rosales » Family Hydrangeaceae
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DistributionScattered over most of the Mountains and the western and central Piedmont, ranging east to Caswell, Orange, and Moore counties. As this species is often planted, it has some ability to escape into places where it is not clear if native; there are a number of county records to the east of the above range that are certainly not natural.

The global range of the species is confused by possible escapes and by inclusion of other taxa that may or may not be the same species. At a minimum, it ranges north to central VA and northern TN south to western FL and most of AL.
AbundanceGenerally rare and widely scattered over the western half of the state; not as easily found as is P. hirsutus, as that species can be more readily targeted in its more restricted rocky slope and bluff habitats on high pH soil. It usually does not occur in large stands, though a few ravines and slopes may contain dozens of individuals. This is an N.C. Watch List species.
HabitatThis species, like P. hirsutus, is essentially restricted to high pH soils, but P. inodorus has a wider choices of habitats, at least there are many more suitable areas where it may occur. It favors Basic Mesic Forests and Rich Cove Forests, but it may occur on moist, rocky slopes (with P. hirsutus) and near forested creek banks – as long as the soil is very rich. As it does escape, it can be found in more open areas or on less rich soils.
See also Habitat Account for Rich Wet-Mesic Hardwood Forests
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, generally a week or more later than P. hirsutus where both occur. Fruits from June to August.
IdentificationThis is a taller deciduous shrub than P. hirsutus, often reaching 6-10 feet tall, and often much wider, with strongly arching branches. It has opposite, ovate to nearly elliptic leaves with single distinct curved veins on either side of the mid-vein. The toothed leaves (except near the base) reach an average of 3 inches long; the leaves have attenuated tips. The leaves are generally smooth above and below, and thus the smoother and larger leaves (which thus look greener overall) should separate it from P. hirsutus. Also, this species has larger white flowers, which average 1.5-2 inches across when fully opened. In fact, at a distance, when in bloom this species can look quite a bit like a Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), which normally does not bloom when only 6-10 feet tall.
Taxonomic CommentsThough there is no concern that P. inodorus is a valid species, a number of other taxa in this genus have been lumped with it, over time. Few references seem to agree on the number of Philadelphus species there are in the Southeast. In fact, the BONAP map certainly includes other taxa on the range map for P. inodorus.

Other Common Name(s)Appalachian Mock-orange
State RankS3
Global RankG4G5
State StatusW1
US Status
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B.A. SorrieMoore County, 2021, Killets Creek at Bethlehem Church Road. MoorePhoto_natural

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