One of the most underappreciated native trees, the Carolina silverbell has great landscape value either as a specimen tree or as part of a woodland or shrub border. The main feature of the Carolina silverbell is the drooping clusters of bell shaped flowers that are about ½ inch in size per flower and with clusters containing 2-5 flowers. The tree is best paired with evergreens, viburnums, and rhododendrons that provide a dark background to the tree’s beautiful flowers. The leaves turn yellow in fall, but are prone to drop early.
The uniqueness and beauty of the Carolina silverbell caused it to be one of the earliest recorded trees in the United States. Peter Collinson, the patron of American horticulture, asked the Quaker Botantist John Bartram to meet with John Custis of Virginia in 1737 to secure hemlock seeds. While in Virginia, Bartram first saw the Carolina silverbell and became enamored with and sent seeds and specimens to Collinson in 1737. In Europe, the tree became an instant favorite and is still highly prized to this day.
Squirrels use Carolina silverbell seeds for food and the trees for dens. The tree is known as a great honey tree by beekeepers, but is an important source of food for many pollinators.
The tree is a great substitute to highly invasive Callery Pear tree (Pyrus calleryana) which was recently banned in Ohio
The trees offered in the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District Native Tree Sale will be shorter (approximately 2-foot-tall) and in clump form (multi-trunk). ■