Content Detail

Leatherwood is an interesting, under-used native shrub with small yellow flowers in early spring before leaves emerge. Light green leaves turn a bright yellow color in autumn.  This plant may be difficult to find in nurseries.

This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.  

  • Family (English) Mezereum
  • Family (botanic) Thymelaeaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Small shrub (3-5 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Occasional flooding, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early spring, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Yellow
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Oval, Round
  • Growth rate Slow

Size and Form:

This plant grows 5 to 8 feet high and 4 to 8 feet wide with a  rounded to oval habit.

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 10 This plant is found primarily in wet, shady sites in eastern U. S. 

Bark color and texture:

It’s bark is brown, turning gray and developing raised lenticels.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves are alternate, simple, light green leaves that grow 1 to 3 inches long with smooth margins. Leaves emerge in early spring. Fall color is a clear yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Small, yellow tubular flowers appear with leaves in very early spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

It produces small, red, berry-like fruit (drupe) that are not showy.

Plant care:

Grows best in partial to full shade and this plant should be protected from the wind. It requires a moist to wet site so avoid dry areas.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

No serious pests or diseases bother this plant however, scale can be a problem on stressed plants.


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