Malacodendron ovatum Cav.; S. pentagyna L’Hérit.
A deciduous shrub, up to 15 ft in height, with erect branches but a bushy habit; young shoots, leaf-stalks, and often the leaves tinged with red. Leaves ovate, 21⁄2 to 5 in. long, about half as much wide, rounded at the base, pointed, toothed more or less distinctly on the margin, or entire, hairy beneath, more especially when young; petioles winged. Flowers produced singly in the leaf-axils, on hairy stalks, about 1⁄4 in. long, each bearing a single bract. Sepals five, about 1⁄2 in. long, broadly strap-shaped or ovate, densely hairy; petals five or six, creamy white, prettily crenulated, one of them often deformed. A conspicuous feature of the flower is the cluster of normally whitish, but sometimes purple stamens; styles three to five, not united; the finest flowers are over 4 in. across, others under 3 in. Bot. Mag., t. 3918.
Native of the south-eastern USA from Virginia and Kentucky south to Alabama and Georgia; introduced in 1795. Loudon records that around 1837 there were specimens at Dropmore 10-12 ft high and others almost as tall at White Knights, both gardens in the Thames Valley, making a splendid display every year in July and August. Like the other American species it is now very rare in gardens and worthy of further trial on acid soils in south-eastern England.
var. grandiflora (Bean) Weatherby S. pentagyna var. grandiflora Bean – ‘I distinguish by this name [see synonym] the beautiful form with purple stamens, which give a much more striking character to the flower than the ordinary whitish ones, especially as it measures 4 to 41⁄2 in. across the petals. This form is found along with the white-stamened one in the woods of Georgia; there appears to be no other character to differentiate them, but the stamens are always purple.’ (W. J. Bean, in the present work, Ed. 1, Vol. II, p. 555 (1914)).