Fothergilla major
Common name: 
Large Fothergilla
Mountain Witchalder
foth-er-GIL-a MAY-jor
Native to (or naturalized in) Oregon: 
  • Deciduous shrub, generally upright, 6-10 ft (1.8-3 m), similar spread.   Leaves alternate, simple, oval to obovate, 5-10 cm long, coarsely crenate-dentate or denticulate above the middle, glabrous and blue-green to dark green above, glaucous (without hairs) or stelate-(star-like)-pubescent below, at least on the veins.  Fall color from yellow to orange to scarlet.  Flowers, which are without petals, have a bottle-brush look, 2.5 -5 cm long, whitish, the stamens are the showy portions (white stamens and yellow anthers), fragrant, tend to appear with the foliage, may last for several weeks.
  • Sun or part shade.  Adaptable, but best in acid, well-drained, moist, soil, with adequate organic matter.
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 4      Native to the Allegheny Mountains from northern North Carolina and Tennessee to northern Alabama.
  • major: larger.
  • Fothergilla major now includes plants formerly listed as F. monticola, Alabama Fothergilla. 
  • Portland, Oregon: Elk Rock
  • Silverton, Oregon: Oregon Garden
  • Several cultivars available, two popular ones are actually hybrids (see below):
    • 'Mt. Airy'  -  upright habit, to 5-6 ft (1.5-1.8 m) high, good dark blue-green foliage, abundant flowers, and yellow (golden) to orange fall color. This plant was discovered by Michael Dirr at the Mt. Airy Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio.  'Mt. Airy' produces abundant flowers, has blue-green leaves, and generally good fall color.  'Mt. Airy' is sometimes listed as a cultivar of F. gardenii, in part because it suckers, a characteristic of that species but not of F. major. Some authorities were suspicious that 'Mt. Airy' is a hybrid of the two species. In 2007 Tom Ranney et al., at NC State Univ., reported that using chromosome counts and DNA content they confirmed that ‘Mt. Airy’ is a hybrid between F. gardenii and  F. major. They proposed that such hybrids from this cross be named Fothergilla ×intermedia, and thus Fothergilla ×intermedia 'Mt. Airy'.
    • 'Blue Shadow'  -  upright habit, slow growing, to 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) high, striking glaucous, powder blue leaves.  It was discovered in Oregon in a cultivated area as a bud sport of 'Mt. Airy' (PP15,490, Nov. 25,2005).   Since this cultivar is derived directly from 'Mt. Airy', it also is a hybrid and indeed Ranney's work (see above) confirmed that it was, therefore it should be named Fothergilla ×intermedia 'Blue Shadow'.
Click image to enlarge
  • plant habit, flowering

    plant habit, flowering

  • plant habit, flowering

    plant habit, flowering

  • flowering branches

    flowering branches

  • flowers


  • flower head and expanding leaf

    flower head and expanding leaf