Clethra alnifolia L. (family Clethraceae Klotzsch.) is an ornamental shrub that is native to the eastern United States (Wilbur and Hespenheide, 1967). While sometimes called summersweet or sweet pepperbush, it is more commonly known as clethra. Approximately 25 cultivars have been described, most of which grow 6 to 8 feet in height with an equal to wider spread, but a few compact selections are also available (Dirr, 2009). Flowering occurs in midsummer. Extremely fragrant flowers are borne on upright racemes or panicles up to 15 cm in length. Flowers may be pink or white; however, no pink-flowered plants with compact growth habit have been found. Foliage generally is dark green. One variegated cultivar (‘Creels Calico’) has been described but is not widely grown. A yellow-leafed form has been named (‘Creels Canary’), but no description has been found nor does this cultivar appear to be commercially available (Dirr, 2009).
A U.S. National Arboretum breeding program was started in 1997 at the Tennessee State University Nursery Research Center (TSU-NRC) in McMinnville, TN, with the purpose of developing a compact, pink-flowered C. alnifolia. Although this goal has not yet been achieved, a plant with yellow foliage was found in one of the populations. This article serves to describe this seedling, which was released under the name ‘Firefly’.
Brickell, C.D., Baum, B.R., Hetterscheid, W.L.A., Leslie, A.C., McNeill, J., Trehane, P., Vrugtman, F. & Wiersema, J.H. 2004 International code of nomenclature for cultivated plants. 7th Ed. International Society for Horticultural Science, Leuven, Belgium. Acta Horticulturae 647.
Dirr, M.A. 2009 Manual of woody landscape plants: Their identification, ornamental characteristics, culture, propagation and uses. Stipes Publishing LLC, Champaign, IL.
Royal Horticultural Society 2007 RHS colour chart. RHS, London, U.K.
U.S. Department of Agriculture 1990 Plant hardiness zone map. USDA Misc. Publ. 1475.