This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What's the deal with bladdernut?

Nice flowers on an interesting native shrub: bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia). I've only seen this rarely in cultivation. This specimen on Felch St has been ignored and seriously abused, but someone apparently was thinking outside the box at some point in the past.

Around here bladdernut grows naturally along the Huron River and smaller streams. In my mind I group it, leatherwood and spicebush together as three rarely utilized native shrubs that thrive in wetter sites. The latter two I grow in my sandy upland garden. I also grew a rare Chinese species of bladdernut for a number of years. It had even more attractive flowers and an upright tree-like form, but grew too tall for its space. Old gardening books list six species in cultivation, but apparently they never took hold in the popular imagination since where are they now?

Bladdernut can be recognized by its trifoliate oppositely-arranged leaves on long petioles, by its unique bladder-like fruit in the fall, and by a stem pattern/color that I won't try to describe but is quite recognizable.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Guerin,

    I found this large shrub growing wild near the old mill that Henry Ford restored on the Raisin River in Sharon Township. I'd never seen it before and was struck by the unusual seed pods, which by that time had turned a tan color. You wouldn't believe how much searching it took to identify it. I finally found a Virginia Tech site that did the trick. None of the other dozens of "native plant" sites for our region even *mentioned* it. In fact, most of them list only a dozen or so "native shrubs", as though that's all there are. I also had trouble identifying glossy buckthorn from the woods near my home - only the non-glossy kind was described or pictured.
    Thanks for the additional information. Do you know whether bladdernut can be pruned to fit on a standard size lot?

    Betsy in Ann Arbor