In British gardens the snowdrop trees are almost exclusively represented by the beautiful H. Carolina and the still finer but much more recently introduced H. monticola. A third species, H. diptera, is sometimes seen. A fourth species, H. parviflora Michx., a native of S. Georgia and Florida, is not known in cultivation in the British Isles and appears to be inferior to the above in ornamental value. It is not further treated in this work. All these species are from the south-eastern USA. There is also one species in China.
The leading characters of the genus are the pendulous snowdrop-like flowers, produced in clusters on the previous year’s wood; the inferior ovary; and the winged fruits. The family Styracaceae is also represented in gardens by species of Pterostyrax, Rehderodendron, Sinojackia, and Styrax, but from all of these Halesia is distinguished by the combination of characters given above.
The halesias like a moist, well-drained soil, and thrive best in a sheltered, sunny position. Propagation is by seeds and layers.
The genus was named in honour of Dr Stephen Hales, the pioneer physiologist, who was born at Bekesbourne, in Kent, in 1671, and died at Teddington in 1761.