Coastal Sweet Pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia

Sweet pepperbush, is a deciduous shrub that may grow to 5 to 10 feet and often spreads into mounded clumps. In the wild, it is often found in swamps, damp thickets, and sandy woods.

Small, white flowers occurring in dense clusters on long 3 to 6 inch terminal spikes mature in late summer when little else is blooming. The flowers produce high quality nectar and pollen that supports hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Sweet Pepperbush are unique among flowering shrubs because they can bloom in shady locations.

This shrub is often grown as a screen, or as a specimen, on in groupings as a border. It prefers moist, sometimes wet, acidic soil with organic material, full sun to partial shade, but will not tolerate a hot, dry site. It is a good bee plant and the flowers are very aromatic.

Note to beekeepers. Described in Lovell's, Honey Plants of North America as "a common source of honey from Nova Scotia to Florida. ... Comb honey white; extracted honey tinges with yellow, thick, with a fine slightly peculiar flavor suggestive of hte bloom. ... It is also slow to granulate...."

Shrub form. Photo by Jim Robbins CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Photo by Tom Potterfield CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Sources:,, various other authoritative resources and personal experience.