By Suzanne Wodek
Leucothoe axillaris is a multi-stemmed, broadleaf evergreen shrub in the Ericaceae (blueberry) family. The genus name Leucothoe comes from Greek mythology, the name of one of the maidens loved by Apollo. The species name axillaris comes from the fact that the flowers emerge from the leaf axils. According to legend, its common name, doghobble, originated with hunters whose dogs would become tangled in the plant’s branches while chasing prey.
Waxy, bell-shaped clusters of white flowers form drooping spikes that attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators, so it does well in a butterfly or pollinator garden, as well as in a native or rock garden. The branches zig-zag toward the end and the lance-shaped, dark green, glossy leaves turn red-green and purple in winter.
Doghobble prefers acidic, well-drained, humus-rich soil and can be grown in full sun, but must have good moisture. It does not tolerate drought or windy conditions and is best planted in a protected location and given good winter mulch.
A word of caution: this plant has a high flammability rating and should not be planted within the defensible space of your home. Select plants with a low flammability rating for the sites nearest your home. Use doghobble in a woodland or naturalized area, on a slope or along a river bank as a specimen or hedge.
Spring Wildflower Walk with Dr. David Clarke, Sunday, May 8, from 9:30–11:30 a.m.
Outdoor Class (Meet at the Visitors Center) Dr. Clarke will lead a walk through the Botanical Gardens (BGA) and share a botanical perspective on the plants we encounter. As botanists, we are tasked with sharing a broad and deep knowledge of plants, placing our local flora in the context of evolutionary change over vast expanses of space and time. Clarke is a botanist and professor of Biology at UNCA, where he has taught for the past 21 years.
Cost: $15 for BGA members, $20 for non-members. Space limited; call to register.
Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Membership benefits include; a discount of 10 percent on purchases in the gift shop, an extensive collection of gardening and nature books in the Cole Library that members can check out (reference collection, not included), our quarterly New Leaf newsletter and tours and programs at a reduced rate. Learn more at AshevilleBotanicalGardens.org.