Leatherwood (Dirca palustris)

Common names:
Give a thumbs up Leatherwood
Give a thumbs up Eastern leatherwood
Give a thumbs up Ropebark
Give a thumbs up Western leatherwood
Give a thumbs up Leather Wood

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Shrub
Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Partial or Dappled Shade
Partial Shade to Full Shade
Full Shade
Water Preferences: Mesic
Soil pH Preferences: Slightly acid (6.1 – 6.5)
Neutral (6.6 – 7.3)
Slightly alkaline (7.4 – 7.8)
Moderately alkaline (7.9 – 8.4)
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 4a -34.4 °C (-30 °F) to -31.7 °C (-25 °F)
Maximum recommended zone: Zone 8b
Plant Height: 3 to 6 feet, to 9 feet
Plant Spread: 3 to 6 feet, to 9 feet
Leaves: Deciduous
Fruit: Edible to birds
Fruiting Time: Summer
Flowers: Inconspicuous
Flower Color: Yellow
Bloom Size: Under 1"
Flower Time: Late winter or early spring
Uses: Will Naturalize
Wildlife Attractant: Birds
Pollinators: Various insects
Miscellaneous: Monoecious

Very early spring woodland bloom

Photo gallery:

Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on Dec 1, 2017 12:26 PM

Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL had a great specimen of Atlantic Leatherwood for decades near its administrative building, but they totally re-arranged the site and it is not there anymore, but there is a good one in their Midwest or Rare Illinois Plants Collection. This species is native from Nova Scotia down to southern Alabama to east Oklahoma up to northern Minnesota, growing in woods with rich soil. I've never seen this plant in the wild. It is a good quality medium sized shrub for landscapes with handsome medium green foliage that just gets greenish-yellow in fall. The stout brown twigs are very flexible. The bark is smooth brown-gray that develops fine narrow irregular fissures when old. The yellow, narrow bell-shaped, trumpet flowers are tiny with 3 or 4 in a pendulous cluster in March-early April before the leaves or just with emerging ones. The plants bear reddish football-shaped berries in June-July that are eaten by birds. it is slow growing of less than 1 foot/year. It has shallow, but coarse lateral roots and is difficult to transplant and slow to re-establish. It is offered by some large, diverse nurseries, native and specialty nurseries, but only really known by landscape architects and designers, botanists, and some park district staff.

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Posted by mellielong (Lutz, Florida - Zone 9b) on Apr 23, 2015 12:31 PM

The book "How to Know the Wildflowers" (1922) by Mrs. William Starr Dana says you can find these plants in wet thickets. In April they appear as a leafless shrub with bunches of insignificant yellow flowers "and a bark so tough that we find it almost impossible to break off a branch." She says this is the Leatherwood used by Indians for thongs. She also gives it the common name of "Moose-wood." The leaves appear later and are followed by a reddish oval fruit.

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Discussion Threads about this plant
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
help with understory shrub ID by ChiefSolidago Sep 20, 2019 4:30 PM 4
2016 by Nhra_20 Apr 10, 2017 5:56 AM 989

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