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PlantFiles: Leatherwood
Dirca palustris

Family: Thymelaeaceae
Genus: Dirca (DIR-kuh) (Info)
Species: palustris (pal-US-triss) (Info)

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

5 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Light Shade
Partial to Full Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
Direct sow as soon as the ground can be worked

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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By Toxicodendron
Thumbnail #1 of Dirca palustris by Toxicodendron

By Toxicodendron
Thumbnail #2 of Dirca palustris by Toxicodendron

By mgarr
Thumbnail #3 of Dirca palustris by mgarr

By mgarr
Thumbnail #4 of Dirca palustris by mgarr

By ViburnumValley
Thumbnail #5 of Dirca palustris by ViburnumValley

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Thumbnail #6 of Dirca palustris by ViburnumValley

By ViburnumValley
Thumbnail #7 of Dirca palustris by ViburnumValley

There are a total of 16 photos.
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5 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Rickwebb On Jul 1, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, west of Chicago had a large, beautiful specimen of this species for many years on the east side close to their library in part shade from the 1960's into the 1990's. Seems like it was a neat, tidy plant that got good clear yellow fall color. I am not sure if it is there anymore from all the great amount of reconstruction just after 2000. Jenkins Arboretum has two specimens that are mature, but not yet full grown in a woodsy area in a good amount of shade, as last seen in 2014.

Positive coriaceous On Apr 18, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

An attractive, naturally rounded shrub with small bright yellow flowers in earliest spring, just before the forsythias. The flowers are subtle---don't expect the screaming unsubtlety of forsythia---but quite noticeable. The trunk is thick in relation to the size of the plant, rather like a Daphne or a Bonsai.

This normally grows on shady stream banks in the wild, but grows well and densely here in full sun.

Positive LH1 On Jan 9, 2013, LH1 from Lincoln, NE wrote:

This is an excellent landscape plant. It has a consistent, refined shape (see photos and comments from others) so does not need to be pruned and will not take over space. Leaves are very attractive. I have one in Lincoln, Nebraska in partial shade/full sun, clay soil that I purchased from a mail order nursery in Florida as a one foot tall plant. Worried about rabbits, I protected it the first few years but have never had any problems, nor any insect or disease problems. It is now at least 10 years old. Leaves have not been wind burned nor do widely fluctuating winter and spring temperatures affect flowering - unusual for such an early flowering shrub. Flowers at roughly same time as Cornus mas. There is recent info on the Internet regarding propagation and ecology of Dirca palustris. A recent dissertation at Iowa State Univ. on Dirca palustris is available on-line as are articles based on the dissertation. Only the slow growth of the species limits its availability in the general nursery trade. The seeds fall off very quickly once ripe. I will try to propagate it myself from seed. The Dirca that inspired me was flowering in the Arboretum on East Campus at the Univ. of Nebraska in Lincoln. It was damaged by a larger tree falling on it and no longer exists.

Positive glaucomys On Jul 27, 2007, glaucomys from Vershire, VT wrote:

This shrub has a really beautiful form where it grows symmetrically. Up north here it grows well on seepy slopes. I planted one in partial shade on a dry, west-facing slope, but in a hollow, and it is doing beautifully. I've heard that no one has successfully propagated it (mine was a transplant) commercially, which is a shame if true.

Positive Toxicodendron On Apr 27, 2004, Toxicodendron from Piedmont, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

I was thrilled to find about 15 of these shrubs in a remote section of my woods this year. Leatherwood is a native plant, ranging in habitat from Florida to Louisiana and north to Quebec and Ontario. It was introduced into cultivation way back in 1750, before we even became our own country. Native Americans used the wood for basket making and tying purposes because it is flexible and strong. The twigs can be tied into knots without breaking, according to one source.
It is tolerant of a wide range of soils, and grows very slowly to a maximum size of 7 feet tall (and about that wide) with a maximum trunk diameter of 4 inches. It looks very treelike, especially if there is open space around it. It prefers north or east facing exposures. Mine are growing in deep shade under tall mature hickory/oak/maple trees, on low moist bottomland soil.
The fruit is reportedly narcotic, and the bark can cause skin irritation in some people. Very few diseases and insect problems, so it always looks healthy.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Lisle, Illinois
Machesney Park, Illinois
Clermont, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Piedmont, Missouri
Saint Louis, Missouri
Lincoln, Nebraska
Devon, Pennsylvania
Vershire, Vermont

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