Fetterbush

Pictured above: Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida) by Stacey Matrazzo. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF.

Also known as Fetterbush (a common name for many species in this genus), Shiny lyonia is a long-lived evergreen shrub that occurs naturally in lower scrub edges, scrubby flatwoods, xeric hammocks, moist pine flatwoods and forested wetlands. Flowers typically appear in spring and are attractive to butterflies and bees; fruits are eaten by birds and other wildlife. The foliage offers cover.

Fetterbush leaves showing spots and conspicuous midribs and margins
Leaves showing spots and conspicuous midribs and margins. Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
Fetterbush seed capsules
Fetterbush seed capsule by Stacey Matrazzo

Shiny lyonia’s flowers are urceolate, vary in color from whitish-pink to pink to deep rose, and are held by 5 light-green sepals. They are born in showy clusters and have a pleasant honey-like fragrance. The plant’s bright green leaves are small, leathery and oval to broadly elliptic. They have a shiny upper surface, conspicuous midrib and are often spotted. A vein encircles the margin, which is a helpful identifier. Leaves are alternately arranged. Fruit is a small brown ovoid to urceolate capsule with very tiny seeds.

Its common descriptor “shiny” and its species epithet lucida refer to the shiny or bright leaf surface. The species epithet lucida is from the Latin lucidus, meaning “shining.”

Family: Ericaceae (Heath family)
Native range: Nearly throughout Florida (vouchered in all counties except Suwanee and Monroe)
To see where natural populations of fetterbush have been vouchered, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zones 8A–10B
Soil: Well-drained, acidic soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 3–8’+ tall with 2–4’ spread
Garden tips: Shiny lyonia’s bright green foliage has a fresh appearance that is accented by its many bell-shaped blooms that vary in color from plant to plant. Use in masses or mixed with other shrubs and grasses from a flatwoods ecosystem for a naturalistic landscape. The plant can also be used in masses next to a swamp edge. It can be temporarily inundated or tolerate short drought periods once established.

Fetterbush is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit www.PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.

For more information on other Lyonia species, see:
Rusty lyonia (Lyonia ferruginea)

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