Field of Science

Silver-bell tree

The silver-bell tree (Halesia tetraptera) is a much under used ornamental tree. A 1.5 m bare-root plant flowered in it's 2nd year of growth, and if pruned it could be grown as a large shrub. In flower they are quite elegant with all these small white, not silver, bell-shaped flowers in small clusters at each leaf. Our campus had quite a large handsome speciment, but new landscaping killed it by burying the roots to change the grade, exactly what the Phactor told them would happen when he saw what they were up to. Of course it took 3 years, and then the next year a new sapling was planted, but it will take 30-40 years to replace its predecessor. And any good arborist would have seen the problem if consulted, and it was in an arboretum too! That required a special form of incompetence. Although native to moist woodlands from west Virginia to southern Illinois, they seem quite hardy in zone 5 and fairly tolerant of our droughts once established. This is one of two members of the Storax family in our gardens; the other has been featured as a Friday Fabulous Flower, American snowbell.

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