663 Agarista populifoliaCommon Names: pipestem, Florida hobblebush, Florida leucothoe, fetter-bush Family: Ericaceae (heath Family)
Pipestem is an open, multi-stemmed, rather lanky evergreen shrub with long branches that arch and lean. It can get 8-12 ft (2.4-3.7 m) tall with a spread of 5-10 ft (1.5-3.1 m). The glossy, deep green leaves are lanceolate, 2-3 in (5.1-7.6 cm) long, and taper to an acute tip. The flowers, appearing in late spring, are creamy white, narrowly urn shaped, 1/3 in (0.8 cm) long, and borne in dense clusters that originate in the leaf axils. Pipestem is quite showy and the little flowers are sweetly fragrant.
Agarista populifolia is a common shrub in the understory of mixed swamps and along creeks and especially spring runs on the coastal plain from SE South Carolina to northern peninsular Florida.
CulturePipestem likes an acidic, moist soil in a shady or partly shady location. Light: Pipestem performs well in full shade to partial shade. It also tolerates sunny locations. Moisture: Regular water. Pipestem does well in moist soils or dry soils with regular watering. Pipestem is surprisingly tolerant of dry conditions and droughts. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 9. Pipestem occurs naturally only in USDA hardiness zone 8, but it is cultivated in zones 7-9, and probably will survive in zone 6 as well. Propagation: Cuttings of semi-ripe tip shoots taken in summer or fall are easy to root.
Pipestem is a useful evergreen shrub for moist, shady areas. It's an excellent shrub for the natural or woodland garden. It's cultural requirements are similar to those of azaleas, rhododendrons, mountain laurels and blueberries. Pipestem responds well to very heavy pruning, and can be maintained as a hedge.
Pipestem is just beginning to be appreciated by the horticultural community, and has only recently become available from native plant nurseries in Georgia and Florida. It's small natural distribution no doubt has contributed to its relative obscurity. The creamy white fragrant flowers in springtime and the glossy evergreen foliage make this an especially attractive shrub for shady situations. Up until 1979, pipestem was classified in the genus, Leucothoe. The common name recalls the chambered, partly hollow, stems and twigs.
Steve Christman 4/15/00; updated 6/9/01