Trees With Flowers Or Fruits - The Silver Bell Trees
( Originally Published 1927 )
The silver bell tree (Mohrodendron tetraptera, Britt.) earns its name in May when among the green leaves the clustered bell flowers gradually pale from green to white, with rosy tints that seem to come from the ruddy flower stems. A "snowdrop tree" may be eighty feet in height in the mountains of east Tennessee and western North Carolina, but ordinarily we see it in gardens and parks as a delicate, slender-branched tree, that stands out from every other species in the border as the loveliest thing that blooms there.
Not a moment in spring lacks interest if one has a little mohrodendron tree to watch. For weeks the ruddy twigs grow ruddier by the opening of leaf and flower buds; then comes the slow fading of the flowers, when sun and rain seem to work together to bleach them into utter purity of color and texture. Gradually the white bells fade and a queer little green, tapering seed-case enlarges and ripens. Through the late summer these pale green fruits are exceedingly ornamental as the leaves turn to pale yellow.
In cultivation, the silver bell tree is hardy in the New England states, but in its native woods it grows north no farther than West Virginia and Illinois. It is easily trans-planted and pruned to bush form, if one desires to keep the blossoming down where the perfection of the flowers can be enjoyed at close range.
M. diptera, Britt.
A second species called the snowdrop tree skirts the swamps along the South Atlantic and Gulf coast and follows the Mississippi bayous to southern Arkansas. It is smaller in stature than the silver bell tree, but has larger leaves and more showy flowers. The botanical names record the chief specific difference between the two species: this one has but two wings on its seed-cases, while the other has four. This species is hardy no farther north than Philadelphia. The flowers have their bells cleft almost to the base, whereas the bell of the other species is merely notched at the top.