By William T. Hathaway

Fetter-bush (Pieris floribunda)

The Fetter-bush (Pieris floribunda) is an evergreen shrub that grows from Virginia to Georgia. It is confined to a north-facing, rocky mountain top locally. Smith Mountain, with an elevation of 2000 feet, presents an ideal habitat for the shrub.

I have been unsuccessful in finding the fetter-bush on any of the wooded foothills surrounding the Smith Mountain range. This is good news for cattle, since the leaves contain a highly toxic principle. There have been several reported deaths where the ingestion of leaves has produced fatal poisoning in children. In rare occasions honeybees may produce distasteful honey after having transported nectar from fetter-bush flowers.

The popular lily-of-the-valley bush (Andromeda japonica) is much cultivated as a hardy shrub, and it has the same poisonous characteristics as the native fetter-bush.