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Publication #FPS-357

Lyonia ferruginea Rusty Lyonia1

Edward F. Gilman2


Rusty lyonia is a Florida native shrub or small tree that reaches a height of 10 to 20 feet. This evergreen plant is distinguished from other members of the heath family by a rusty pubescence that is present on all parts of the plant. The pubescence is especially prominent on the leaf underside and reportedly works to protect new growth from harmful insects. Lyonia ferruginea has leaves that are elliptic or oblanceolate in shape, and they are usually tipped with a sharp point. The fragrant flowers of this plant occur in small axillary clusters and are white in color. These flowers are followed by light brown capsules that are approximately ½ of an inch long. The bark on the crooked trunks and irregularly spreading branches is reddish brown, scaly, and ridged.

General Information

Scientific name: Lyonia ferruginea
Pronunciation: lye-OH-nee-uh fair-roo-JIN-nee-uh
Common name(s): rusty lyonia, stagger bush
Family: Ericaceae
Plant type: tree
USDA hardiness zones: 8 through 10 (Fig. 1)
Planting month for zone 8: year round
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10: year round
Origin: native to Florida
Uses: border; foundation; reclamation plant; near a deck or patio
Availability: grown in small quantities by a small number of nurseries

Figure 1. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 10 to 20 feet
Spread: 4 to 10 feet
Plant habit: round
Plant density: moderate
Growth rate: slow
Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: oblanceolate
Leaf venation: none, or difficult to see
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: white
Flower characteristic: pleasant fragrance; spring flowering


Fruit shape: oval
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit cover: dry or hard
Fruit color: unknown
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems; not particularly showy
Current year stem/twig color: green
Current year stem/twig thickness: medium


Light requirement: plant grows in full sun
Soil tolerances: occasionally wet; acidic; slightly alkaline; sand; loam; clay
Drought tolerance: high
Soil salt tolerances: unknown
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Rusty lyonia has no real outstanding ornamental traits, but can be used in poorly drained sites where other plants suffer.

Lyonia ferruginea needs to be planted in an area of the landscape that receives sun for most or all of the day. It is found in the wild in both poorly drained pine flatwoods and in well-drained sand pine or oak scrub. This plant is drought resistant and will grow on dry, acid, or sandy soils; it is well-suited for use in unirrigated landscapes. Lyonia lucida (fetterbush) is closely related and adapted to similar soils.

Pests and Diseases

No major pests or diseases are normally seen on this plant.

A caterpillar may cause partial defoliation but will do no lasting harm.



This document is FPS-357, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2007. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.