Itea virginica, the Virginia willow, or Virginia sweetspire is a small North American flowering shrub of low-lying woods and wetland margins. Virginia willow is a member of the Iteaceae family, and native to the southeast United States. Itea virginica has small flowers on pendulous racemes. Depending on location, Itea will bloom in late spring to early summer. It prefers moist rich soil, but it can tolerate a wide range of soil types. When Virginia willow is used in horticulture it can form large colonies and may form dense root suckers, making the shrub hard to remove.
Itea virginica is a deciduous shrub that grows to 2.5 m (8.2 ft) tall and 1.5 m (4.9 ft) broad, with alternate, simple leaves on arching stems. The flowers are white or cream, borne in downward pointing slightly curved spikes, in summer. It is a multi-stemmed, suckering and colonizing plant, with the stems branching infrequently except at the tops. In favorable conditions it may become semi-evergreen. The leaves turn shades of red in fall (autumn). It is hardy down to at least −15 °C (5 °F).
Itea virginica has a current IUCN status of Least Concern. However, Itea virginica is considered extirpated in Pennsylvania and endangered in Indiana.
Itea virginica belongs to the Iteaceae, a family of deciduous and evergreen shrubs. It is the only species in its genus in North America, most Itea spp. are from east Asia. Some authors have historically placed Virginia sweetspire in the Grossulariaceae or Saxifragaceae.
In cultivation in the UK the cultivar ‘Henry’s Garnet’ has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Itea virginica is used as a native ornamental landscape plant in North America, and numerous cultivars have been named. The flowers attract pollinators, and the shrub can be used for erosion control.
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- Radford, Albert E. (1968). Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Ahles, Harry E., Bell, C. Ritchie. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-1087-8. OCLC 355003.
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- "Home & Garden Information Center". hgic.clemson.edu. Clemson University. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
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