Lindera Benzoin
Spicebush
 
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Family: Laurel family (Lauraceae)
Native Habitat: Maine to Ontario and Kansas, south to Florida and Texas

Spicebush is a terrific native Indiana shrub. In the wild it's commonly found growing in damp woods and moist areas along streams. Surprisingly, when removed from its natural habitat and grown in full sun and given adequate moisture it becomes a first rate ornamental shrub.

Numerous small clusters of fragrant yellow flowers appear in early spring, before its leaves emerge, and are quite effective. It is a real harbinger of spring. Through most of the growing season it's just a pleasant green shrub. With proper pruning it can easily be trained into the form of a dwarf tree which is quite nice in the landscape. This is a dioecious shrub, having separate male and female plants. Female plants, given a male pollinator nearby, will produce a nice crop of bright-red, shiny, oval berries up to ½" long. Berries are not much noticed until the foliage falls in fall. Then they are extremely attractive. It is certainly one of the most impressive of all shrubs for fall color. The electric, bright-yellow fall color glows in the landscape. The effect is so amazing, plants almost look illuminated.

You might wonder about the name Spicebush. It refers not only to the leaves but to the fruits as well. The leaves are highly spicy-fragrant when crushed. They were used as tea by early settlers and may be used in marinades for meat. The fruit are also quite spicy and can be used in jams and jellies.

Spicebush is a favorite food plant of two handsome lepidopterous insects: the Spicebush Swallowtail and the Promethea Silkmoth. The larvae of the Spicebush Swallowtail are easily found inside folded over leaves. Small larvae are brown, resembling bird droppings, but mature larvae are quite interesting. They are much larger and have large heads with prominent eyespots. Promethea moth cocoons, if present, can be found in the winter, resembling dead leaves still hanging from the twigs.

Ornamental Characteristics:
Clusters of small, fragrant flowers in very early spring before the foliage emerges. Leaves spicy-fragrant when crushed. Shiny red berries on female plants in fall. Electric, bright-yellow fall color. One of the most effective shrubs for fall color.
Habit & Growth Rate:
Upright deciduous shrub growing 6 to 10 ft. high with a similar spread. Separate male and female plants. Berries only on females. Medium growth rate.
Landscape Uses: Shrub border, naturalizing. Attracts butterflies.
Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9
Culture:
Full sun to full shade. Average to moist soils. Fall color is best in full sun. Becomes more open and wide spreading in full shade.