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Lyonia lucida

This plant has poison characteristics. See below.
Common Name(s):
Fetterbush lyonia, Pink fetterbush
Native Plants, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs

Lyonia lucida, commonly known as fetterbush, is an evergreen shrub of the heath family that is native to wet woods (common in the Okefenokee and Big Cypress swamps) in the southeastern U. S. along the coastal plain from Virginia to Florida west to Louisiana. It is also native to Cuba. Fetterbush is typically found growing in the understory of shrubby bogs, wet savannas, cypress swamps, wet pine flatwoods, peaty thickets and along stream banks. Although it is also sometimes found in drier often sandy habitats (dry scrub), it is primarily a denizen of wet places.

Fetterbush is an arching and sprawling shrub that typically matures to 3-6’ tall and as wide, but can reach 10-15’ tall in optimum growing conditions. Common name is in reference to its dense sprawling growth habit which fetters (impedes) human/animal traffic when growing in thickets. 

This shurb has sharply three-angled branches and spreads by suckers.  The bark is brown with splits and fine shreds.

Regions:  Piedmont, Coastal Plains 

Seasons of Interest: 

  Leaf:                     Blooms:   Spring           Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Fall

Wildlife Value: This plant is moderately resistant to damage from deer.  It provides excellent cover, especially in the winter.  Its flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators.  Pink fetterbush is a nectar plant. Members of the genus Lyonia support the following specialized bees: Colletes productu and Melitta (Cilissa) melittoides.   

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: The fetterbush is susceptible to leaf spot.


Deciduous shrubs; leaves simple and alternate; flowers small, white or pink, urn-shaped and drooping, in terminal clusters; fruit a globose or pear-shaped capsule, not depressed at the apex.
3-6 ft.
The fetterbush has glossy, thick, elliptic to oval, evergreen leaves (to 2-4” long) which are lustrous dark green above and dull green beneath, with each leaf having a major vein which parallels the often narrowly rolled leaf margin. The leaves are alternate with conspicuous veins that parallel the outside edge of a smooth margin. They are also simple, and leathery.
The fetterbush has small, sweetly fragrant, white bell-shaped flowers (each to 1/ 4” long) which bloom in axillary clusters (to 10-15 flowers per cluster) in late winter to early spring (March to May) on wood of the previous year. It has woody, five-parted fruits (capsules to 1/3” diameter) which develop in clusters in the leaf axils, splitting open when ripe to release seeds.
The Fetterbush is best grown in consistently moist, acidic, organically rich, reasonably well-drained soils in part shade. It will tolerate full sun. In the wild, this shrub grows in bogs and swamps and tolerates soils that are periodically flooded and poorly drained, but it seems to appreciate less soil moisture and better soil drainage when grown in home landscapes. It also tolerates dry sandy habitats once established. It spreads by root suckers and rhizomes to form colonies. It is winter hardy to USDA Zone 7.
Open arching shrub; loose; spreading
Partial shade; moist to damp soil but does not tolerate constant moist soil
Shell pink flowers in early spring
Poison Part:
Leaves and nectar from flowers
Poison Delivery Mode:
Salivation, watering of eyes and nose, slow pulse, nausea, vomiting, sweating, abdominal pain, headache, tingling of skin, lack of coordination, convulsions, paralysis
Toxic Principle:
Found in:
Forest or natural areas in moist woodlands and pocosins; in landscape cultivated as ornamental woody shrub
3-6 ft.
naturalize, pollinator, showy fruit, wildilfe, bees, nectar, hedge, specialized bees, butterflies, rain garden, native bees, evergreen

NCCES plant id: 506

Lyonia lucida Lyonia lucida
Bob Peterson
Lyonia lucida Lyonia lucida
Jason Hollinger, CC BY - 2.0
Lyonia lucida Lyonia lucida
Homer Edward Price, CC BY - 2.0