A shrub from three to ten feet high. Leaves. - Alternate, ovate, sharply toothed. Flowers. - White, growing in clustered finger-like racemes. Calyx. - Of five sepals. Corolla. - Of five oblong petals. Stamens. - Ten, protruding. Pistil. - One, three-cleft at apex.
Nearly all our flowering shrubs are past their glory by midsummer, when the fragrant blossoms of the sweet pepperbush begin to exhale their perfume from the cool thickets which line the lanes along the New England coast. There is a certain luxuriance in the vegetation of this part of the country in August which is generally lacking farther inland, where the fairer flowers have passed away, and the country begins to show the effects of the long days of heat and drought. The moisture of the air, and the peculiar character of the soil near the sea, are responsible for the freshness and beauty of many of the late flowers which we find in such a locality.
Clethra is the ancient Greek name for the alder, which this plant somewhat resembles in foliage.