Philadelphus lewisii – Lewis’ Mock Orange
An upright, loosely-branched, deciduous shrub with large fragrant white flowers which grows along coastal bluffs and rocky slopes, in open forests and disturbed areas, and along forest edges, openings, or clearings.
At a glance
- Family: Hydrangeaceae
- Plant Type: Shrub
- Distribution: This plant grows from British Columbia to California and east to Idaho and Montana. In Washington, this plant grows on both sides of the Cascades crest and along the coast.
- Height: This plant grows 5 to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.5 m) in height.
- Flowers: This plant produces both inflorescences in terminal racemes and solitary flowers in the axils of upper leaves. The bell-shaped calyx contains 4 lobes which are egg-shaped to egg-shaped and lance-shaped, is usually glabrous in appearance, and approximately 1/4 of an inch (5 to 6 mm) in length. The flower contains 4 white petals which are obtuse or rounded in shape, and 3/8 of an inch to 7/8 of an inch (10 to 20 mm) in length. The flower contains 25 to 40 unequal stamens and the styles are as long as the stamens and fused most of their length. The ovary is mostly inferior.
- Leaves: The leaves grow in an opposite arrangement on short petioles. The leaves are egg-shaped to elliptic. The margins are hairy and have spreading, pointed or diminutively-pointed teeth. The leaves grow 1 to 2-3/4 inches (2.5 to 7 cm) in length and 3/8 of an inch to 1-1/2 inches (1 to 4 cm) in width.
- Fruits: Woody capsules are produced which are egg-shaped, elliptic, and pointed at the ends. The capsule contains 4 cells and grows 1/4 of an inch to approximately 3/8 of an inch (6 to 10 mm) in length.
- Notable features: This plant produces brown bark which eventually flakes off. The wood is strong and hard. The flowers are showy and fragrant with a scent similar to orange blossoms or jasmine. The genus name, Philadelphus, means ‘brotherly love’, and has no relationship to the city of Philadelphia, PA. The species name, lewisii, is in reference to Meriwether Lewis. Although this plant prefers gravelly and nutrient-rich soils, it can tolerate several soil types.
Restoration and Conservation
- Birds: Birds known to eat the seeds include catbirds, grosbeaks, juncos, thrushes, bluebirds, chickadees, flickers, finches, quail, and grouse.
- Insects: Swallowtail, common wood nymph, and other butterflies harvest the nectar.
- Mammals: Deer and elk browse the shrub.
Many Pacific Northwest tribes (including the Cowlitz, Klamath, Lummi, Nlaka’pamux, and others) have made combs, cradle hoops and hoods, knitting needles, baskets, snowshoes, harpoon shafts, fishing spears, bows, arrows, clubs, breast plates, tools, and pipe stems from the wood. The leaves and bark have been used to make soap. The leaves have been used to treat skin swellings and sores, and skin infections. A decoction branches have been used to treat eczema, hemorrhoids, and sore chests.
- Native American Ethnobotany Database: http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=Philadelphus+lewisii
- Oregon State University Dept. of Botany & Plant Pathology – OregonFlora. https://oregonflora.org/taxa/garden.php?taxon=7208
- Pojar, J and MacKinnon, A. 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska. Vancouver (BC): Lone Pine Publishing. Page 96.
- Starflower Foundation Image Herbarium and Landscaping Pages, 2007.
- Swingle, 1939. Seed propagation of trees, shrubs and forbs for conservation planting.
- United States Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service.
- WTU Image Herbarium: https://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection/taxon.php?Taxon=Philadelphus%20lewisii
This article was written by Gerald B. Stanley and Sarah Verlinde-Azofeifa. For questions regarding the EERC Native Plant Guided Tour, contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.