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Similar but less problematic plants:
Litsea aestivalis
Halesia carolina is often confused with:
Halesia diptera Halesia diptera
Halesia monticola Form
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Symplocos tinctoria Symplocos tinctoria
Tilia americana Tilia americana
Aesculus flava Tree in full bloom

Halesia carolina

Previously known as:

  • Halesia tetraptera
Phonetic Spelling
ha-LESS-ee-ah kay-roh-LEE-nah
Description

Halesia carolina, or Carolina silverbell, is a native North Carolina flowering tree in the Styracaceae family that is most commonly found in the Great Smoky Mountains, but extends throughout the mountain regions and into the upper Piedmont. In nature, it can usually be found in moist slopes, coves, creek-banks, and bottom lands. Some horticulturists draw a genetic distinction between H. carolina and H. tetraptera. Both have the same characteristics and are treated here as synonyms, but some feel that H. tetraptera is better acclimated to the more northern USDA zones of 7 and 8.

It can be grown as a large multitrunked shrub or trained into a small understory tree. The tree rarely reaches more than 80 feet in height with a trunk diameter of 2 feet  and only grows large enough for commercial use in the most favorable locations. Large trees can have very dramatic leaning, twisting trunks. The tree will bloom when it is only a few years old and its life expectancy is up to 100 years.

It is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. It prefers moist, acidic, organically rich soils in part shade. It has an irregular, spreading, open crown and yellow fall color.  It suffers during drought so will need supplemental irrigation. It makes an attractive specimen plant for a lawn or in a shrub border or woodland garden and is occasionally planted as an ornamental.  It also looks attractive planted with rhododendrons and azaleas. Carolina silverbell is sensitive to heat, drought and soil compaction.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: 

No serious problems, though not tolerant of salt or compacted soils.  Leaves can become chlorotic in high pH soils. Carolina Silverbell should be protected from high winds because its wood is relatively weak and soft.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Arnold Pink'
    Pink flowers
  • 'Crushed Velvet'
    Bluish green smaller size leaves with a wavy texture, fine textured branching
  • 'Meehanii'
    Rounded form large shrub shrub-like to 12' tall; white flowers, leaves coarse and wrinkled
  • 'Rosea'
    Pink flowers but depends on pH
  • 'Silver Splash'
    Green leaves with white or yellow splotches
  • 'Variegata'
    White or yellow variegated leaves
  • 'Wedding Bells'
    Smaller rounded form to 20' , numerous white flowers that open fully
'Arnold Pink', 'Crushed Velvet', 'Meehanii', 'Rosea', 'Silver Splash', 'Variegata', 'Wedding Bells'
Tags:
#cultivars#acidic soil tolerant#native shrub#non-toxic for horses#wildlife#food source nectar#sun#pyramidal#full shade#flower#sunshine#deciduous#white#summer fruits#Braham Arboretum#part sun#part shade#late spring flowers#shade garden#low maintenance#food source pollen#food source#full sun#shrub border#showy#nectar plant mid-spring#shade tolerant#shade tree#low flammability#full sun flowers#coastal plant#pollinators#specimen#piedmont#wildlife plants#showy bark#bees#multitrunked#woodlands#children's garden#well-drained soil#NC native#flowering#lawn tree#mid-spring flowers#non-toxic for dogs#hummingbirds#tree#early spring flowers#nectar plant late spring#nectar plant early spring#pollinator plant#playground#native#flowering shrub#patio planting#nectar plant#acidic soil#deep shade#pollinator garden#deciduous tree#interesting bark#coastal#flowering tree#small tree#white flowers#fire resistant#butterfly friendly#native tree#spring interest#coastal areas#partial sun#interesting fruit#mountains#larval host plant#native garden#partial shade#wildlife plant#showy flowers#non-toxic for cats#moist soil#full sunlight#fall interest#summer interest#borders#butterflies#coast#spring flowers
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Arnold Pink'
    Pink flowers
  • 'Crushed Velvet'
    Bluish green smaller size leaves with a wavy texture, fine textured branching
  • 'Meehanii'
    Rounded form large shrub shrub-like to 12' tall; white flowers, leaves coarse and wrinkled
  • 'Rosea'
    Pink flowers but depends on pH
  • 'Silver Splash'
    Green leaves with white or yellow splotches
  • 'Variegata'
    White or yellow variegated leaves
  • 'Wedding Bells'
    Smaller rounded form to 20' , numerous white flowers that open fully
'Arnold Pink', 'Crushed Velvet', 'Meehanii', 'Rosea', 'Silver Splash', 'Variegata', 'Wedding Bells'
Tags:
#cultivars#acidic soil tolerant#native shrub#non-toxic for horses#wildlife#food source nectar#sun#pyramidal#full shade#flower#sunshine#deciduous#white#summer fruits#Braham Arboretum#part sun#part shade#late spring flowers#shade garden#low maintenance#food source pollen#food source#full sun#shrub border#showy#nectar plant mid-spring#shade tolerant#shade tree#low flammability#full sun flowers#coastal plant#pollinators#specimen#piedmont#wildlife plants#showy bark#bees#multitrunked#woodlands#children's garden#well-drained soil#NC native#flowering#lawn tree#mid-spring flowers#non-toxic for dogs#hummingbirds#tree#early spring flowers#nectar plant late spring#nectar plant early spring#pollinator plant#playground#native#flowering shrub#patio planting#nectar plant#acidic soil#deep shade#pollinator garden#deciduous tree#interesting bark#coastal#flowering tree#small tree#white flowers#fire resistant#butterfly friendly#native tree#spring interest#coastal areas#partial sun#interesting fruit#mountains#larval host plant#native garden#partial shade#wildlife plant#showy flowers#non-toxic for cats#moist soil#full sunlight#fall interest#summer interest#borders#butterflies#coast#spring flowers
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Halesia
    Species:
    carolina
    Family:
    Styracaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Native ornamental. Heartwood is soft and cherry-colored streaked with white while the sapwood is cream-colored. When large enough, it is cut for lumber and used as a substitute for cherry.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    East Central to Southeastern United States
    Distribution:
    West Virginia to Ohio to Oklahoma and Illinois, south to Florida
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts hummingbirds, and supports 7 different species of lepidopteran caterpillars. It is a host plant for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Eastern Comma, Red-spotted Purple, and Viceroy butterflies. Buds and flower clusters are eaten by birds. Butterflies, bees, and other pollinators enjoy the nectar from the flowers.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire in the landscape.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 25 ft. 0 in. - 35 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Irregular
    Multi-trunked
    Open
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    A 1 to 2 inch, oblong 4-winged dry drupe with one hard seed which starts out green with a dark point at the base and turns brown persisting and providing winter interest. In North Carolina, fruits are available from August to September.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    White, tinged with pink, pendulous perfect, bell-shaped flowers, 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch long, in drooping clusters of 2 to 5 blooms from late April to May. Four sepals form a cup with four prominent ribs and four petals are fused at the base. They appear in spring with the unfolding leaves. Flowers appear on second-year growth. In North Carolina, flowers are available from March to May.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves appear at the same time or just after bloom. They are finely toothed, dull, dark green above, ovate-oblong 2 to 5 inches long with rounded base and acute apex. Pubescent below and they turn yellow in the fall but drop early.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Light Gray
    Orange
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Scaly
    Bark Description:
    Young bark is gray with vertical dark fissures. Mature bark is scaly, ridged, and furrowed with reddish-brown bark appearing underneath. It separates into scales that strip off as the tree grows older.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Branching is irregular and begins low on the trunk. Second-year stems appear stringy. Twigs are brown and smooth, while young shoots are light green and pubescent.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Patio
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Fire