Mountain stewartia, mountain camellia, and summer dogwood
NATIVE RANGE AND HABITAT
Mountain stewartia’s native range is North Carolina to Tennessee and Florida. They grow in the forest understory or at the edges of openings along streams. In Kentucky it is found infrequently in dry to moist forests in the Appalachian Plateaus province.
Mountain stewartia is native to Kentucky. The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission does not rank it as a plant of conservation concern. NatureServe lists Stewartia ovata as possibly Vulnerable in Kentucky.
Growth Habit and Form
Mountain stewartia is a deciduous tree or large shrub that will grow 10 to 15 feet in height with an equal spread. It has dense, spreading branches and a bushy habit. Mountain stewartia has a zigzag stem pattern. Mountain stewartia is distantly related to the evergreen camellias of Asia, and resembles them in some ways, but isn’t evergreen.
Leaves are alternate, simple, and ovate or elliptic to ovate-oblong with minutely saw-toothed leaf margins. The 2.5 to 5-inch long leaves are dark green and somewhat pubescent (covered with short soft hairs). Leaves develop outstanding orange to scarlet fall color.
White flowers that have concave petals with crimped and very small round toothed surfaces are borne in June and July. Flowers are 2.5 to 3 inches wide.
Fruit is a 1-inch long sharply pointed woody capsule. The capsule contains up to four winged seeds.
Bark is gray-brown and slightly ridged and furrowed. Stems are red on top and green on the underside.
Wild and Cultivated Varieties
var. grandiflora (also listed as ‘Grandiflora’) – Probably the most commonly available form of this native species in commerce. It is notable for its larger flowers and purple stamens. As a species, mountain stewartia appears to be quite variable. Horticulturist Polly Hill (Martha’s Vineyard, MA) planted seeds collected from specimens of the grandiflora form and found some significant differences among the resulting plants. Three of the observed forms were given names:
‘Red Rose’ (flowers with red stamens and yellow anthers)
‘Royal Purple’ (flowers with purple stamens and yellow anthers)
‘Satin White’ (flowers with white stamens and yellow anthers)
‘Scarlet Sentinel’ – A hybrid with S. pseudocamellia, this selection from Boston’s Arnold Arboretum has an upright, dense habit and white blooms crowned with red-pink stamens. Specialty nurseries sometimes offer it.
Mountain stewartia is best used in shrub borders or on the edges of woodlands.
Hardy in USDA Zone 5 to 8.
Growth rate is slow.
Cultivation and Propagation Information
Mountain stewartia is difficult to transplant and prefers moist, acidic, organic soil and partial shade. It does not tolerant heat or drought. Propagate by seed and softwood cuttings. Seeds require 3 to 5 months warm stratification followed by 3 months of cold stratification.
Diseases and Insects
Relatively free of problems.
Mountain stewartia trees provide homes and shelter for wildlife.
Minimal attention given appropriate cultural conditions.
TRADITIONAL AND MODERN USES
Mountain stewartia was introduced into cultivation in 1800.