Native shrub that’s great for Indianapolis yards – Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia [Quercus is the oak genus]) is native to the southeastern US, but was not found in Indiana in presettlement times.  It is well-suited to the Hoosier lifestyle, however.  Its leaves are shaped like oak leaves, and its flowers look hydrangea-like, with elongated flower clusters.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea

 Both cream-colored and pinkish petal varieties are available.  There is a nice stand of the pink form at the IndyGo office downtown. 

Oakleaf Hydrangea has a graceful branching pattern with interesting bark that peels off to reveal different hues of reddish and cinnamon-brownish layers.  The leaves turn reddish in the fall, adding more seasonal color.

Like the common purple/pink hydrangeas, you can dry the flowers and enjoy this plant in arrangements through the winter.

Like the common purple/pink hydrangeas, you can dry the flowers and enjoy this plant in arrangements through the winter.

Sally and Harmon Weeks great recent book on shrubs and vines of Indiana* lists only one Hydrangea native to Indiana, Hydrangea arborescens, wild hydrangea.  I’ve seen it at Marrott Park Nature Preserve.  It has smaller, less conspicuous flowers than those used in horticulture, but you can recognize the basic floral theme as Hydrangea.

*Purdue University Press ISBN: 978-1-55753-610-5.  $45.00

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