Leitneria floridana

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 1 Professionals
Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: corkwood
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Simaroubaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 6.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: March
Bloom Description: Brownish (male), Redish (female)
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Erosion, Wet Soil

Culture

Grow in medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Plants are flood tolerant (will grow in standing water for extended periods of time), but also will tolerate average moisture soils. Winter hardiness is USDA Zone 5 (has been cultivated successfully in the Chicago area) even though the plant’s native range is basically Zones 7-9. This is a suckering tree that may form dense colonies or thickets.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Leitneria floridana, commonly called corkwood, is an uncommon to rare, suckering, deciduous shrub or small tree that is native only to a few wetland areas (swamps, ponds, marshes, estuaries, tidal streams, wet thickets and roadside ditches), in both freshwater and brackish conditions, in far southeastern Georgia, along the Gulf Coast in Florida and Texas plus in the Mississippi River basin in both Arkansas and the Missouri bootheel. It is considered to be rare in Missouri where plants are restricted to Dunklin, Butler and Ripley counties (Steyermark). Although it will grow to 25’ tall in the wild, it is usually observed in shorter form. In cultivation, it typically grows in the 3-12’ tall range. Flowering catkins and fruit are not particularly ornamental, but the shrub/tree has interesting aspects, including attractive foliage that remains green well into autumn and reddish bark with lighter colored lenticels. In swamps, trunks are often swollen at the base. Wood is very light and buoyant (less so than cork), having been once used by fishermen for fishing net floats. This is a dioecious (separate male and female plants), catkin-producing shrub/tree. It is somewhat similar to other catkin-producing plants such as poplars. Catkins appear in spring (March) before the leaves emerge. Male catkins are brownish and female catkins are reddish. Female plants produce fruit (oblong single-seeded light olive brown drupe to 5/ 8” long) in late spring. Green to olive green leaves (gray-hairy beneath) are elliptic-oblong to lanceolate (to 3-6” long) and crowded near the branch tips.

Genus name honors Edward F. Leitner (d. 1838), German physician and naturalist killed by Indians when collecting in Florida.

Specific epithet is in reference to the Florida habitat.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

This plant may be very difficult to locate in commerce. It is botanically interesting, but not particularly ornamental. It is best grown in moist to wet areas, including low spots, but has a somewhat surprising adaptability to average garden soils. It can be quite effective when allowed to naturalize into thickets. It is effective along streams or ponds. Suckering habit makes it good for erosion control. Hedge or small screen.