Coastal Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)

Typically found around wetland bogs, stream banks, and shorelines through eastern North America and along the coastline to Texas, this deciduous shrub prefers moister soils with neutral to acidic pH. Yet, once established, it has a reasonably good tolerance for drought and may grow up to 10 feet in height. It proliferates by producing horizontal stems along the ground that develop roots in intervals, which can then produce new plants. Under ideal conditions within its native habitat, it may form dense thickets that can control erosion. 


Unlike many flowering shrubs, coastal sweet pepperbush flowers bloom in the late summer under shady conditions. Throughout July and August, white to light pink bottlebrush flowers blossom with an intensely sweet fragrance. These attract numerous native pollinators, such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. The name is derived from the appearance of the mature fruits, which are dry, brownish capsules that resemble peppercorns, though they are lacking in spice. They are produced throughout September and October and are then eaten by numerous species of birds and mammals.