ORRIN MORRIS: Experience the aroma of fragrant snowbells before they are gone

An appropriate preparation for Easter is the ancient call of Isaiah found in Chapter 55. "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (vs. 6-7).

What kind of a person was Jesus, who endured the false accusations at the trials, the insults yelled at him on the way to Golgatha, and the physical agony of being nailed to a cross?

While life was draining from his body he prayed, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Isaiah's message ended with, "... for he will abundantly pardon."

Whatever we have done or whatever we have not done is not beyond God's love demonstrated by Jesus' prayer on the Cross. God's forgiveness is a fragrance that our own spirits long to savor.

This week we look at the blossoms of the fragrant snowbell, a shrub that is native to the Southeast, although it is quite rare.FRAGRANT SNOWBELLS

Styrax obassiaThis is not an endangered species in the legal sense, but it is endangered here if more land is cleared in this part of the state. The only place I've seen it growing in the east metro area is in northeast Rockdale County near the Walton and Gwinnett county lines.

In our first effort to identify the snowbell shrub we combed our 30-plus wildflower books and booklets.

Even our very knowledgeable county extension agent had to send a sample to the horticulturists at University of Georgia before it could be identified.

When searching under the styrax genus we found it in my mother's "The New Garden Encyclopedia," published by Wm. H. Wise & Co. in 1942.

The blooms occur in tight clusters and are pure white. The stamen and pistil are yellow and tightly configured.

The University of Georgia folks identified it as fragrant snowbells and indeed they have a gentle fragrance that can not be described; it can only be experienced.

The fragrant snowbell is a small tree, said to grow to 20 feet with a spread of 10 feet. Those that I have seen are much smaller. It is easy to transplant by digging up sprouts.

You may have difficulty finding the name fragrant snowbell in your reference books but it may also be listed as styrax, the Latin name.

The snowbell likes acidic sandy soil in partial shade. It is fairly drought resistant but prefers moist areas.

The leaves are opposite each other on the branches and I went to extra detail on the sketch to document the leaf structure.

God is so very good to us. He has provided such rare beauty for us to discover and enjoy.

These rare plants remind me of some of the special people of the east metro area who have that same rare beauty. They are special gifts of God for us to know and be blessed by each time we meet.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His email is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call himat 770-929-3697.