Itea virginica
Common name: 
Virginia Sweetspire
i-TE-a ver-JIN-i-ka
Native to (or naturalized in) Oregon: 
  • Broadleaf deciduous, semi-evergreen, or evergreen shrub, generally to 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m) tall, greater spread, arching habit.  Leaves alternate, simple, elliptic or obovate to oblong, 4-10 cm long, 2-3 cm wide, serrulate, lustrous medium green to dark green above, may turn crimson to purple in fall, petiole (3-6 mm) grooved on upper side.  Flowers white, with 5 petals, 8-12 mm wide, in cylindrical clusters (racemes) 6-15 cm long, at the ends of branches in summer, lightly fragrant.  Fruit narrowly cone shaped, 2 grooved, downy capsules about 6 mm long; containing numerous very small seeds.
  • Sun to light shade, tolerates deep shade, but is more dense, has more flowers, and better fall color in sun.  Best in moist, fertile soil, but a tough shrub which tolerates dry and wet conditions (often found in wet places in its habitat).
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 5      Native range from New Jersey to Florida, west to Missouri, Louisiana, and East Texas.
  • Several cultivars, including:
    • ‘Henry's Garnet’  -  4(6) ft (1.2 m) tall, greater spread, flowers in 15 cm long clusters, fall color outstanding, purplish red.
    •  Little Henry®  -  low growing, 2-4 ft (0.6-1.2 m) tall, spreading, flower clusters 10 cm long, fall color from red-purple, orange, to yellow.
    • ‘Merlot’  -  to about 3 ft (0.9 m) high, dense, compact habit, red fall color.
    • ‘Saturnalia’  -  reportedly more shrub-like, less thicket forming, and maturing to a somewhat smaller size than the species, bloom similar.  Foliage color is red, orange, and yellow, less showy than ‘Henry's Garnet’.
  • Itea: Greek name for willow;    virginica: of Virginia
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  • sometimes confused with Clethra alnifolia, Summersweet

    sometimes confused with Clethra alnifolia, Summersweet