Lyonia lucida
Common Name: fetter bush
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Ericaceae
Native Range: Southeastern United States
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Erosion, Wet Soil

Culture

Best grown in consistently moist, acidic, organically rich, reasonably well-drained soils in part shade. Tolerates full sun. In the wild, this shrub grows in bogs and swamps and tolerates soils that are periodically flooded and poorly drained, but it seems to appreciate less soil moisture and better soil drainage when grown in home landscapes. Also tolerates dry sandy habitats once established. Spreads by root suckers and rhizomes to form colonies. Winter hardy to USDA Zone 7.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Lyonia lucida, commonly known as fetterbush, is an evergreen shrub of the heath family that is native to wet woods (common in the Okefenokee and Big Cypress swamps) in the southeastern U. S. along the coastal plain from Virginia to Florida west to Louisiana. It is also native to Cuba. Fetterbush is typically found growing in the understory of shrubby bogs, wet savannas, cypress swamps, wet pine flatwoods, peaty thickets and along stream banks. Although it is also sometimes found in drier often sandy habitats (dry scrub), it is primarily a denizen of wet places.

Fetterbush is an arching and sprawling shrub that typically matures to 3-6’ tall and as wide, but can reach 10-15’ tall in optimum growing conditions. Common name is in reference to its dense sprawling growth habit which fetters (impedes) human/animal traffic when growing in thickets. Notable features include: (a) small, sweetly fragrant, white bell-shaped flowers (each to 1/ 4” long) which bloom in axillary clusters (to 10-15 flowers per cluster) in late winter to early spring (March to May) on wood of the previous year, (b) glossy, thick, elliptic to oval, evergreen leaves (to 2-4” long) which are lustrous dark green above and dull green beneath, with each leaf having a major vein which parallels the often narrowly rolled leaf margin, (c) sharply three-angled branches, and (d) woody, five-parted fruits (capsules to 1/3” diameter) which develop in clusters in the leaf axils, splitting open when ripe to release seeds.

Genus name honors gardener John Lyon (1765-1814).

Specific epithet comes from Latin meaning shining.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to leaf spot.

Garden Uses

Naturalize in areas with moist to seasonally wet soils. Hedge. Shrub borders.