Every spring, this small tree blooms in my yard, its branches covered in these dangling white blossoms. For the first 3 years I lived here, I fretted, trying to determine what kind of tree it was. I asked arborists, landscapers, pretty much everyone who came near it. I googled “carolina silver bells” and “amelanchier” knowing they weren’t quite right, but hoping to get a clue to this plant’s identity. I felt like a failure as a botanist.
Finally, I remembered botanical keys and consulted Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas, arriving at the genus Styrax, a close relative of Carolina silverbells. After some internet research, I decided it had to be Styrax japonicus.
One mystery solved.
My next question (How did it get here?) was answered by an older, plant-loving neighbor. When I told her about my Styrax, she said, “Oh, yes, I belive the arboretum [nearby Arnold arboretum] used to give out seedlings and one year they gave out Styrax. There are probably others in the neighborhood.”
I have yet to see one, but when I do, I will definitely know it.