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. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic 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.


Identifying Characteristics

Habitat: Rusty lyonia commonly grows on sandy sites including wet flatwoods and dry forests. It can also be found growing in hardwood hammocks.
Size/Form: Rusty lyonia is a rhizomatous shrub that usually measures 3' to 12' tall but may grow up to 30' high. It has several crooked trunks with stout and ascending limbs that form an uneven crown.
Stem: The twigs are covered with rusty hairs or scales. The brown bark is scaly and fissured.
Leaves: The leaves are simple, alternate, and persistent. They are 1" to 3" long, ¼" to 1½" wide, and elliptical in outline. The upper leaf surface is glossy, the lower leaf surface has rusty scales, and the leaf margins are smooth and slightly rolled under.
Fruit: The fruit is a five-sided ovoid capsule, about ¼" long and contains many small, light brown seeds, about 1/8" long. These capsules occur in small clusters in leaf axils.



Click on thumbnails to see a larger image in a new window. Close the new window to return to this page.

Full plant Bark Leaves Flowers
Photo credit: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Photo credit: James H. Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Photo credit: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Photo credit: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan,


Learn More