Shrub or small tree with irregular, spreading, open crown and drooping, bell-shaped white flowers. Height: 30 ft. Diameter: 1-2 ft. Leaves 3-6 in. long, 1-2 in. wide.
Leaves: Elliptical, abruptly long-pointed, finely saw-toothed. Dull dark green and becoming hairless above, covered with white hairs when young and often with tiny star-shaped hairs on veins beneath, turning yellow in autumn.
Bark: reddish-brown, furrowed into loose, broad, scaly ridges.
Twigs: brown, slender, with star-shaped hairs when young.
Flowers: ½ -1 in long, bell-shaped, white corolla, opening before reaching full size, in drooping clusters of 2-5 flowers on long stalks on previous year’s twig back of new leaves; in early to midspring.
Fruit: 1.5-2 in. long; oblong, podlike, with 4 long broad wings, long-pointed, dark brown, dry; stone containing 1-3 seeds; maturing in late summer and autumn, remaining closed and attached into winter.
Habitat: moist soils along streams in understory of hardwood forests.
Common and of largest size in the southern Appalachians, where it is known as “Mountain Silverbell.” It can be easily seen in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The wood serves for lumber, though of limited supply.