Dirca palustris

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: leatherwood 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Thymelaeaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: Pale lemon yellow
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Tolerate: Heavy Shade, Wet Soil

Culture

Best grown in organically rich, consistently moist, slightly acidic soils in part shade to full shade. Avoid dry soils. In full sun exposures, the foliage may bleach or burn and the fall color is less likely to be attractive.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Dirca palustris, commonly called leatherwood, is a small deciduous shrub that typically grows 4-6' (infrequently to 9') tall. It is native to the forest understory of eastern North America, but is uncommon in most of its range. In Missouri, it is most often found in the Ozarks in low bottom woods, rich wooded slopes, rocky wooded bluffs and along streambanks (Steyermark). Bell-shaped, pale lemon-yellow flowers (to 1/4" long) with long yellow stamens bloom in axillary clusters along the branches in early spring (March-April) before the leaves emerge. Flowers give way to green drupes (to 1/2" diameter) which mature in late spring to early summer. Elliptic to obovate leaves (to 3-4" long) emerge yellow-green in spring, mature to medium green in summer and turn a pleasant bright yellow in fall. Bark is leathery, tough and strong. Twigs are extremely pliable. Native Americans used the twigs and bark for a number of purposes including making bow strings, baskets, fishing line and rope. Some people have allergic reactions to contact with the bark. The bark, fruits and roots of this shrub are toxic.

Genus name comes from the Greek word dirke meaning a fountain.

Specific epithet means marsh-loving in reference to the moist-to-boggy habitat preferred by this shrub.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Woodland or shade gardens. Native plant areas. Pond margins and streambanks.