Seven sons run 45mph
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As you drive through a neighborhood in winter white-barked plants can definitely catch your eye. This one is sometimes mistaken for "a little birch or something" but it's Heptacodium miconioides, a.k.a. seven son shrub.
Call them white flash!
White birches are pretty common in the northern U.S. and Canada.
But another light colored bark has begun to cause comment. It's
seven son shrub, Heptacodium miconioides. If it makes you
do a double take, that's understandable since it has been in
cultivation in North American only about 40 years -- hardly long
enough to reach most home gardens.
It's a fast growing relative of honeysuckle that may be a
shrubby tree or tall shrub, up to about 20 feet tall. Its bark is
vanilla colored and peeling. White, very fragrant flowers open at
the end of summer (giving rise to comparison to lilac in its
alternate common name, reported below). Pink seed pods can be quite
showy in October. There is no significant fall leaf color.
Well drained soil and sun to part shade suit it. We see many
butterflies on the plants and have not in 20+ years seen any
serious pest problems.
Here's a typical reaction from
someone new to this plant. Late one fall, A.W. emailed to ask
...a shrub (?small shrubby tree?) blooming along the fence
at the exit gate of the visitors' center at West Point Military
Academy. It has ball-shaped "puffs" of bright red/deep mauve
blossoms/seeds... No one... has any idea what the plant is... I
don't want Security to suspect I might be a
After much bloodhounding,
I've discovered the name of the mystery plant... Heptacodium
miconioides, aka Autumn Lilac.
In winter, in fragrant bloom in late summer, in seed in fall: we