A deciduous shrub in this country, 4 ft or more high (a small tree in some parts of its native habitat), of spreading habit, free from down in all its parts; young shoots slender, very leafy. Leaves alternate, oblanceolate or obovate; 11⁄2 to 4 in. long, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. wide; much tapered at the base, more abruptly so or rounded at the apex, dark lustrous green; stalks 1⁄4 in. or less long. Flowers very small, numerous and white, crowded on slender cylindrical racemes 3 to 6 in. long, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. wide; produced in late summer and autumn; the racemes appearing in a horizontal whorl at the base of the current season’s growth. Fruit a roundish capsule 1⁄12 in. long. Bot. Mag., t. 2456.
This species, if interpreted in a broad sense, is native of N. America from Virginia to Texas, of the West Indies and of S. America as far south as Brazil. It was introduced to Britain in 1765, but had long disappeared until reimported about 1900. Only the form from the northern limits of its distribution, which is shrubby and deciduous, is hardy in the south of England; the more southern forms are evergreen, tree-like, and not hardy. There is a specimen of the former kind in the Wild Garden at Wisley. The profusion and curious arrangement of the racemes as well as the season at which they appear, give the species a certain distinction and merit. It thrives in a mixture of peat and loam.