- Average to sandy, dry or rocky soils
- 15’ to 20’ height and spread
- Early summer blooms, summer long seeds
- Native to Ontario, thrives in dry, sunny conditions and low fertility soils
Not as common in this area as their common name might suggest, this is a species of concern in Ontario, where their native range and ecosystems are under pressure from land use competition (housing, roads, agriculture etc.).
With their glossy leaves, abundant blooms and visually striking clusters of seeds this is a species that is eye catching enough that I photographed them long before I knew what species they were or that they are native.
A smallish tree, growing to 15’ to 20’ in height and spread, they are well sized for a lot of urban and suburban yards. They do well in sandy, low nutrient soils and dry settings and thrive in full sun or partial shade. They bloom in early summer with clusters of greenish-white flowers that are attractive to pollinators. As a dioecious species, the male and female flowers occur on separate plants. When close enough to a pollen source (male tree), the seed bearing (female) tree will develop large clusters of seeds, held in circular samaras that remain bright green through much of the summer.
In addition to attracting nectar and pollen feeding insects during their blooming phase, as a member of the citrus family (Rutaceae) they are a larval host species for Giant swallowtail butterflies, the largest butterfly native to this continent.
The ones at my Perth place, which have grown from seed I planted six years ago, are still quite small but they bloomed last summer, with two of them producing an abundance of seeds. I planted a few and sent the rest on to the Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library and the North American Native Plant Society seed exchange.
I definitely recommend planting this species if you have an appropriate space and conditions. As a species whose range is under threat from urbanization, their survival and thriving can be helped along by those of us working with urban and suburban gardens.