I am a large perennial shrub or tree growing to 35 ft, and am a member of the Magnoliales order. My native habitat stretches from the Southeast, through Pennsylvania and the East Coast and parts of the upper Midwest. I am often found growing in deep fertile bottom lands, as well as hilly upland areas. My growth pattern is to form a dense thicket of tall slender trees and often provide an understory component in my preferred habitats.
I have large, simple leaves and the largest edible fruit indigenous to the US. My leaves cluster symetrically at the ends of my branches. They are wedge shaped at the base and are alternate and spirally arranged. Being deciduous, my leaves turn a rusty yellow in the fall. Otherwise they are wedge shaped at the stem, with a grey rusty underneath and a hairy upper surface.
My flowers are quite unusual, in fact I often resemble a maroon Campanula when in bloom. They are 1-2″ across, rich red-purple or maroon in color…and are produced in spring from April to May just before the leaves appear. My flowers are composed of three sepals and six petals, arranged in two tiers and are pendulous.
Pollination is somewhat different for me in that the yeasty smell of my flowers attracts more blowflies, fruitflies, carrion beetles than honey bees. I am reasonably shade tolerant and my leaves, twigs and branches have a slight disagreeable odor when handled.
My fruit has been described as being showy and the main distinguishing factor in giving me my common name.
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