Tag Archives: summersweet

ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SCENTS ON ALL OF CAPE ANN – ‘SAILOR’S DELIGHT’ SUMMERSWEET

Clethra alnifolia is more commonly known by its many descriptive names of Summersweet, Sweet Pepperbush, and Honeysweet. In an old book on fragrance, written by Louise Beebe Wilder, she writes that in Gloucester of old it was described as ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ During the 19th and early 20th century, as told by Wilder, the sailors entering the harbor on homebound ships would reportedly delight in its fragrance wafting out to see.

Much of Niles Pond road is to this day lined with great thickets of ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ Wild Clethra growing on Cape Ann blooms during the month of August.

The following is an excerpt from a book that I wrote back in 2004-2007, which was published by David R. Godine in 2009. The book is about designing landscape habitats for wild creatures and for people, titled Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities: Notes from a Gloucester Garden, and all that I wrote then, still holds true to day.

“Summersweet bears small white florets held on racemes, and depending on the cultivar may be shaded with varying hues of pink to rose-red. The tapering spires of fragrant blossoms appear in mid to late summer. Clethra has a sweet and spicy though somewhat pungent aroma, and when the summer air is sultry and humid, the fragrance permeates the garden, Summersweet is a nectar food attractive to bees and a wide variety of butterflies, notably the Silver-spotted Skipper.” See more at Oh GardenMyriad species of bees and butterflies, along with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, are attracted to Clethra for its sweet nectar, while American Robins, Goldfinches and warblers dine on Summersweet’s ripened berries.
Clethra fruits ripening

Wildflowers Blooming Today!

Summersweet (Clethra alnifoloa( ©Kim Smith 2015Summersweet

There is an exuberant abundance of wildflowers blooming in marsh and meadow all along the shores of Cape Ann and here are just a few snapshots. When out and about on a wooded walk, you may notice a wonderful sweet spicy fragrance. What you are smelling is more than likely our native summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), which also goes by the common name sweet pepperbush; perhaps a more apt description of its potent and zippy honey-spice scent.

Sweet pepperbush ©Kim Smith 2015Plant summersweet for pollinators–bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies love the nectar-rich florets.

Jewelweed ©Kim Smith 2015Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), also loved by hummingbirds

Cattail flowers ©Kim Smith 2015 copyCatinninetails

Northern Crescent ©Kim Smith 2015Male Northern Crescent Butterfly Basking

Pearl Cresent nectaring at Marsh Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2015Female Pearl Crescent Nectaring at Milkweed