Silverbells comprise several species of native trees that are attracting increased interest in the southeastern United States.
The two-winged silverbell (Halesia diptera) is one of our many smaller-growing native tree species that should be considered for inclusion in a native landscape plan.
Silverbells most commonly are recognized by bell-shaped, drooping flowers from early to midspring in Louisiana.
Sometimes the two-winged silverbell is called the “snowdrop tree.”
Native across portions of South Carolina, the Florida panhandle, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and southeast Texas, the silverbell is most often found as an understory tree in hardwood and pine forests. It occurs in wetter sites, such as swampy areas and along stream banks.
Fruit of the silverbell is two-winged – which resulted in its name. When fruit is in the immature, green stage, it is attractive to wildlife, primarily squirrels. The fruit is 1½ – 2 inches long, matures in late summer or early fall and typically is dark brown. The drooping, white flowers of the two-winged silverbell are four-lobed and covered with fine hairs. Clusters of drooping flowers occur in groups of three to six on long stalks from the previous year’s growth.
Significant flowering begins on three- to five-year-old trees.
Hummingbirds are attracted to silverbell flowers. A botanical variety of two-winged silverbell native to Florida has larger flowers.
Two-winged silverbell has a moderate-to-fast growth rate the first few years in the landscape. A typical mature height is 25-30 feet with a trunk diameter of six to eight inches. Canopy spread is about 20-30 feet. Some trees in Louisiana have surpassed the average reported height.
Consider using silverbells in your landscape. Many experts recommend them as a substitute for dogwoods, which have been doing poorly in Louisiana over the past few years.
One of the more popular native trees available, silverbell has received some promotion and attention in recent years and is being commercially grown by more wholesale nurseries in Louisiana.
Unfortunately, it is still not available in the numbers that it needs to be, but a few garden centers around the state carry silverbells. You may also find success locating them at local tree-related plant sales and at garden shows.
For more information, contact Dr. Chris Robichaux, county agent/area horticulturist, St. Martin/Iberia Parishes, at 332-2181 or 369-4440.