June West, one of our original Friends of the Garden, took today's photo in our North Garden. Our sincere thanks go to June for this quite generous contribution to Botany Photo of the Day.
Styracaceae is a rather small family of flowering plants, counting about 11 genera and 160 tree and shrubby species among its ranks. The family is broadly distributed throughout the temperate and subtropical areas of the northern hemisphere, from Asia to Europe and west to North America. Generally, species don spirally arranged leaves and white flowers equipped with fused petals. We considered the family in greater detail when we featured Styrax confusus in late June, an entry you can access by clicking here.
Halesia—commonly referred to as the Silverbell or Snowdrop tree—consists of about 5 small tree and shrubby species that are native to Asia and eastern North America. The genus, which received its name in honour of the renowned British chemist and physiologist Stephen Hales (1677-1761), puts forth alternately arranged ovate leaves along with clusters of pendulous flowers that range from white to pink in colour. Plants also produce dry, four-winged fruit.
Today's plant, Halesia tetraptera, is a deciduous tree species native to a region of the eastern United States that reaches north from Florida to West Virginia and Illinois, and west from the Atlantic coast to Oklahoma and Minnesota. A trunk wrapped in lovely, striated grey-brown bark hoists the tree's apex up to a height of about 10 metres, where the branches and foliage form a rounded crown. The species, which U.S. authorities have declared threatened, puts forth four-lobed, pendulous white and light green flowers, and a lime-green fruit. Trees are common as ornamentals, and they enjoy full sun to partial shade as well as moist, acidic, and well-drained soils.