Botanical Name: Lindera benzoin
Common Name: Northern Spicebush, Spicebush, Wild Allspice
Description: This is a beautiful Florida native shrub for the part sun, part shade, or shade areas of your garden. It is a lovely harbinger of spring because it is one of the first woodland plants to bloom at that time.
It is a medium to large rounded shrub or small tree that grows moderately fast to 10-12′ tall and wide. It has glossy leaves and graceful, slender, light green branches. Leaves alternate on the branchlets, up to 6″ long and 2-1/2″ wide, upper surface dark green, lower surface lighter in color, obovate, tapering more gradually to the base than to the tip, tip somewhat extended margins without teeth or lobes. Dense, umbel-like clusters of tiny, pale yellow flowers with 6 tepals bloom along the twigs before the leaves show back up.
Spicebush has both male and female plants. Both types bloom, but only the females produce the glossy red fruit in the fall that the birds and mammals love. There needs to be a male spicebush in the vicinity of the female for it to set fruit. My supplier doesn’t separate the males and the females, so I can’t guarantee which one you’re getting. The only way to tell them apart is by the flower structure.
Spicebush is an understory plant and grows in rich woods, bluffs, floodplains, calcareous hammocks, and swamps in occasionally wet, acidic, soil in sand, loam, or clay. The more sun it’s in, the more water it needs. It will not grow well in a very dry, very sunny area. I have mine in morning sun/afternoon shade in soil that stays naturally moist but not wet. It is moderately drought tolerant after becoming established, but looks much better with supplemental water during extended drought.
It is the host plant for the Spicebush Swallowtail, Eastern Black Swallowtail, and the Palamedes Swallowtail.
Spicebush is so named because the leaves and twigs are aromatic and have a wonderful, refreshing, spicy, and lemon-like scent. It is in the same laurel family with the sassafras and cinnamon. Is also called the “forsythia of the wilds” because its early spring flowering gives a yellow tinge to lowland woods where it grows. Is deer resistant.
Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water. Low/no tolerance of salty wind or direct salt spray.
This plant in 1-gallon containers is 8-15″ tall.
This plant in 3-gallon containers is 2-3′ tall.
Plant Lore: Genus name honors Johann Linder (1676-1723), a Swedish botanist and physician. Specific epithet comes from the Arabic vernacular word meaning aromatic gum. A tea can be made from the aromatic leaves and twigs.