Halesia was named for the Reverend Stephen Hale (1677-1761), a physiologist and author of Vegetable Staticks (1727); diptera is Greek for “two-winged” and refers to the fruit.
Two-winged silverbell is derived from the winged fruits and the flowers that resemble small silver bells. Other names include snowdrop tree.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN AND NATIVE HABITAT
Two-winged silverbell’s native range is South Carolina and Tennessee to Florida and Texas. Plants are found in sheltered woods, swamps, streams and bottomlands. Two-winged silverbell is in the Styracaceae family. Halesia is a small genus containing 5 species of shrubs or small trees. Only one species of Halesia is not native to eastern North America.
Not native to Kentucky.
Growth Habit and Form
Two-winged silverbell is a beautiful, small, multi-stemmed or low-branched, round-headed tree. It grows 20 to 30 feet high and wide.
Leaves are simple, nearly circular or disk-shaped and arranged alternately on the stem. Leaves are 3 to 5 ½ inches long and 1 ½ to 3 inches wide, dark green and glabrous above with hairy veins below. Leaf edges are minutely toothed and leaf tips taper to a point. The deciduous leaves turn yellowish-green in autumn before dropping.
Two-winged silverbell bears white flowers with four deeply cut lobes. Flowers are ½ to 1 ¼ inches long. The bell-shaped flowers bloom in drooping clusters of 3 to 6 before the leaves appear. Flowers bloom in April and May and are pollinated by insects.
The light green fruits have 2 to 4 thin wings and are 1 ½ to 2 inches long. Fruits ripen to brown in September and October. The fruits contain a hard stone with 1 to 3 seeds that are scattered by wind. The dry, dark brown fruits may remain on plants through winter.
The grayish-brown bark has silvery undertones.
Wild and Cultivated Varieties
The variety magniflora produces more abundant and larger flowers than the species.
Two-winged silverbell may be used as a specimen or understory plant. Plants are also used in groupings, shrub borders or woodland gardens.
Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.
Growth rate is medium, 9 to 12’ over a 6 to 8 year period.
Cultivation and Propagation Information
Growth is best in moist, fertile, well-drained, slightly acidic soils. Plants prefer full sun or partial shade on cool, sheltered sites.
Diseases and Insects
Two-winged silverbell provides homes and shelter for wildlife.
Two-winged silverbell requires minimal attention given appropriate cultural conditions.
TRADITIONAL AND MODERN USES
Two-winged silverbell is a beautiful ornamental tree and not well-known in gardens. It was introduced into cultivation in 1758.