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A deciduous shrub or small tree usually 5 to 10, sometimes 20 ft high, with a stem 3 to 5 in. in diameter; young shoots downy. Leaves alternate, entire, narrowly oval, tapered at both ends, 3 to 7 in. long, 11⁄2 to 3 in. wide, covered with short hairs at first above, grey-felted beneath; stalk downy, 1 to 11⁄2 in. long. Flowers unisexual, the sexes on separate trees. Males in erect, axillary catkins, 11⁄2 in. long, each flower consisting of three to twelve stamens borne on a hairy bract, calyx and corolla absent. Female catkins smaller and more slender than the males; all of a greyish hue and of little beauty. Fruit an oval, flat, dry drupe, 3⁄4 in. long, 1⁄4 in. wide.
Native of Missouri, Florida, etc., inhabiting swamps; discovered about 1835; introduced to Kew in 1910. I saw this interesting tree in 1910 thriving quite well in the Arnold Arboretum, Mass., in Highlands Park, Rochester, N.Y., and in the New York Botanic Garden. It seemed to grow as well in ordinarily moist as in damp spots. All these places have considerably greater extremes than we have of heat and cold, and its capability of permanently supporting our duller climate has yet to be ascertained. Plants have so far succeeded fairly well. According to Prof. Trelease it often grows in rich soil, mostly covered with 6 in. or more of water. But many American trees found in such places succeed better here under drier conditions. Still, a site moderately moist should be given it. Its wood is remarkably light, having a specific gravity less than that of cork; but it is still much heavier than balsa wood, from which the Kontiki raft was made.