While the flowers look beautiful, the spicy, sweet scent of Clethra is its real draw for humans and a massive profusion of pollinating insects. Sweet pepper-bush is a widespread coastal and freshwater wetland plant, but it tolerates drought well once established, and its profusion of late summer blooms becomes a point of anticipation. Before the proliferation of lighthouses, many sailors knew this plant as "sailors' delight:" when the winds were right, they could often smell Clethra in bloom before they saw land. 'Compacta' is an aptly named cultivar that remains shorter than the species and doesn't form as broad a mass.
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