Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Leucothoe racemosa (L.) Gray
ERICACEAE (Heath Family)
EtymologyLeucothoe is named for the ancient Greek princess, Leucothoe, who was loved by the god Apollo. When her father, king Orchasmus, found out, he had her buried alive. Finding her dead, Apollo turned Leucothoe into the myrrh tree (from Ovid's Metamorphoses); racemosa is Latin for having flowers in racemes.
Synonyms (Common Name)Swamp Leucothoe, Swamp Sweetbells
DescriptionA deciduous, broad-leaved, ericaceous shrub that grows 5-13' tall, fetterbush is one of the most nondescript shrubs in the wetlands. From November to April, its ascending, brownish-gray branches would hardly be noticeable except for its red-tipped twigs with rows of bright red buds.
Wetland indicator statusFACW
Plant Height5-13 feet
LeavesDeciduous, alternate, simple, finely-toothed; 1-3" long; oblanceote to obovate or oblong, stalked, pointed at both tip and base; smooth.
Flower/InflorescenceWhite or tinged with pink, small (approx. 3/16"), urn-shaped; borne on one-sided racemes up to 3" long, hanging downward in a row along the lower edge of the stalk. Flower buds form in autumn for the coming year and are noticeably red in winter.
Flowering PeriodMay-June
FruitCapsule, tiny (1/8 - 3/16"), slightly flattened, 5-parted; in rows; brown, then turning brittle and gray by spring.
Fruiting PeriodJuly-August, persisting throughout the winter.
HabitatWooded and shrub swamps, wet woods, stream and pond margins.
RangeMassachusetts to southeastern New York and eastern Pennsylvania; south to Florida and Louisiana; usually along the coastal plain.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett