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Florida 4-H Forest Ecology

Florida 4-H Forest Ecology

Rusty Lyonia

Lyonia ferruginea
Family: Ericaceae

Natural History

Flowers and leaves of rusty lyonia | Photo credit: Richard Crook (Flickr ID crookrw). | Used under a Creative Commons license

Rusty lyonia, also known as stagger-bush or tree lyonia, grows on sandy sites, both dry and wet. Rusty lyonia is found in three states in the southeast: Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. It is almost always present in Florida scrub and may be the dominant plant in some scrub ecosystems.

The flowers of rusty lyonia are an important nectar source and the leaves are eaten by deer. Rusty lyonia is sometimes harvested for its twisted trunks and stems that are used for canes and in decorative arrangements and displays. The plant stems are often used to make artificial shrubs with plastic leaves.

Rusty lyonia can be identified by its crooked branches, fissured bark, rusty scales on the undersurface of leaves and along new stems, and small, ovoid capsules. White flowers occur in clusters at the end of stalks.

Rusty lyonia may be confused with another evergreen shrub, poor-grub (Lyonia fruiticosa). Poor-grub only grows to 6' tall, the new stems are covered in white hairs, and the undersurface of the leaves is whitish with protruding veins.

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