Outdoors Recreation

In Bloom: Mountain Pepperbush

By Suzanne Wodek

Clethra acuminata, commonly called mountain pepperbush, is a small, deciduous native tree that grows up to 20 feet tall, or can be pruned to be more shrub-like. The rich green foliage and horizontal branching habitat make it a great specimen for small yards.

As the tree ages, the outer bark exfoliates to reveal a cinnamon color. Small, white, bell-shaped flowers provide nectar to support pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Mountain pepperbush (Clethra acuminata). Anne Holmes, artist

Plant in a moist, well-drained, humus-rich acidic soil. Mountain pepperbush can grow in full sun, but flower blooming is best in partial shade. Fungal dieback and root rot can sometimes affect it, but, generally, this is a trouble-free tree.

Upcoming Events

Woody Ethnobotany with Marc Williams
Sunday, July 9, 1–4 p.m.
Spend a class learning more about the applications of woody plants and their ecology. We will start with a presentation about major tree and shrub families and will then go outside for a plant walk to practice identifying woody plants by the leaves, bark, flowers, fruit and growing conditions. The connection between woody plant and fungal species will be an additional topic of conversation, especially regarding medicinal mushrooms. Wear appropriate clothing for walking outside.

Williams is an ethnobiologist. He has studied the people/plant/mushroom/microbe connection intensively while learning to employ botanicals and other life forms for food, medicine and beauty. His training includes a Bachelor’s degree in environmental studies concentrating in sustainable agriculture with a minor in business from Warren Wilson College, and a Master’s degree in Appalachian studies concentrating in sustainable development with a minor in geography and planning from Appalachian State University.

Creating a Multi-Purpose Native Garden with Sarah Coury
Saturday, July 15, 9–11:30 a.m.
A sunny spot in the yard presents the perfect opportunity to replace a section of turf grass with a colorful and ecologically rich native meadow. This course will cover meadow design, plant species selection, site prep, planting methods and maintenance. Class begins with a slide presentation which is followed by a garden walk.

Coury is the garden manager at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville (BGA) and co-owner of Saturnia Farm in Weaverville, which specializes in holistic production of specialty perennials and native plants. With a background in wildlife conservation, Sarah’s passion is creating artistic and multi-use garden spaces that provide high habitat value for flora, fauna and humans.

Meet at BGA Visitor Center Butler Room for both indoor and outdoor classes. Space is limited for programs. Register online at AshevilleBotanicalGardens.org. Cost is $35 for non-members, with 25 percent off for BGA members.

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. Gardens are open sunup to sundown. The gift shop, featuring garden-themed items and books, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Learn more at AshevilleBotanicalGardens.org.

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