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A deciduous shrub 3 to 8 ft high; young shoots either covered with a close soft down or nearly glabrous, and of a rather zigzag growth. Leaves alternate, oval or obovate, 2 to 3 in. long, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. wide, entire or nearly so, pointed, covered with short down and dark green above, more downy beneath and paler, the nerves very prominent; stalk 1⁄8 in. long. Flowers produced in July and August on the leafless terminal portion of the preceding year’s growth, in downy racemes or small panicles 1 to 11⁄2 in. long, the whole forming a compound panicle from 3 to 6 in. long. Corolla downy, dull white, 1⁄8 to 3⁄16 in. wide, globose or orange-shaped, with five small, reflexed teeth at the nearly closed mouth. Calyx pale green or white, downy, appressed to the corolla. Seed-vessel a dry, five-celled capsule, with the calyx persisting at the base.
Native of eastern N. America; introduced in 1748. This is not one of the most attractive of the heath family, but is desirable through flowering so late in the season. It grows naturally in moist situations, but in cultivation thrives in ordinary peat or light sandy loam. Propagated by seed or by cuttings taken with a slight heel from the shoots that spring freely from beneath the flower panicle.
This species is very variable and the plant described above represents only one of many phases found in the wild. The following three varieties were all introduced to Britain early in the 19th century:
L. capreifolia Wats
Andromeda ligustrina var. pubescens A. Gray
Lyonia frondosa (Pursh) Nutt
L. salicifolia Wats