Monday, April 28, 2008

The wet dog bush

The wet dog bush is blooming now, just in time to join the wet dog trillium. The bush is Illicium floridanum and the trillium is Trillium erectum. They share not only the same disagreeable scent but also sufficient beauty to lure in unsuspecting flower sniffers. They are also approximately the same color, a red with a sort of garnet quality.

It comes as a surprise to most of us that the wet dog bush is hardy in local gardens. But it is, and has been for decades here. I also planted Illicium anisatum, thinking at the time that it was the source of the spice star anise. But the spice is derived from the related I. verum. It's a good thing I didn't try to home harvest seed from I. anisatum: it's toxic, as are the native I. floridanum and its cultivars.

The various Illicium make good evergreen understorey shrubs for the woodland garden. They have some of the same foliage qualities of Skimmia and the native Osmanthus americanus. Illicium bloom freely enough to attract the unwary: give them some room when they are in bloom.

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