Halesia monticola (Mountain Silverbell) - Qt Super Plugs
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Common in the Southern Appalachians, Mountain silverbell is a often regarded as a variety of Carolina silverbell (Halesia tetraptera). Mountain silverbell, however, is quite different from the latter - Mountain silverbell tends towards a single trunk and has larger flowers than Carolina silverbell. Mountain silverbell is a canopy forest tree, often growing over 100 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 2-3 feet in the Southern Appalachians. This tree is especially common in the Great Smoky Mountains. Mountain silverbell has clear white, bell-shaped flowers, appearing when the trees are only a few years old. The flowers spring in clusters of 3-4 from buds set the previous year, tracing the twigs and branches in similar fashion to Redbud. The bark is bluish-gray, marked with silvery striations. On older trees, the bark can often become shaggy, as shown in the picture from Mt. Sterling in the Great Smokies.
While not commercially grown as a timber tree, Mountain Silverbell does yield timber. The light, soft wood is sometimes grouped in with basswood. Mountain Silverbell's main use is as a landscape tree - The white early-spring blossoms appear shortly after Serviceberry, overlapping with flowering dogwood and redbud, which make good companion trees. Silverbell has a decent clear yellow fall color, which blends well with the reds and oranges of oaks and sugar maple. Silverbells can become huge trees, with the mountain forms growing nearly 100 feet tall with 3-foot diameter trunks in good, moist soil. Use silverbell as a flowering shade tree, either alone or in groupings with red oaks and hemlocks, which are often found growing with mountain silverbell. The flowers are held to best effect against a dark, evergreen background.
Mountain silverbell holds its form when planted away from the Appalachians, growing straight and tall. The trees are quite easy to grow, as long as the soil is acidic or at least on the lower end of neutral. Trees flower equally well in shade as sun, though growth will be faster in sunlight. Silverbell must be given moist soil to really thrive, but it tends to languish in really heavy clay soils. Mountain silverbell is a tree of cool, moist cove forests, so avoid hot, dry sites. Mountain silverbell grows well in the same soils as rhododendrons and azaleas, and they make good shade trees for them.
Our mountain silverbell Root Pouch trees about 36" tall, and will often begin flowering a year or two after planting. Silverbells can grow very quickly, often growing 3-5 feet per year. Space trees 8 feet apart for a grove - Silverbells are best planted in front of evergreens such as Hemlock or White Pine, as the flowers are much more noticeable against a dark background. Mountain silverbell goes very well planted with Yellow Birch, Red Oak, Red Maple and Hickories.