Rick’s Native Plant of the Month | Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

April 16, 2024

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

A member of the laurel family, spicebush is a deciduous shrub native to eastern North America, from Maine to northern Florida and west to Kansas. Naturally found in the understory of moist, fertile forests, it was an indicator to early settlers of good land for agriculture.

Spicebush grows 6-12 tall and wide with an upright, bushy form. In summer, its aromatic twigs and branches are clothed with large, oval leaves, dark green above, pale beneath and also aromatic, with a scent reminiscent of allspice. In fall, these leaves turn a clear, bright yellow and stand out from a distance.


Spicebush’s small, yellow flowers appear in early spring. They are clustered along twigs and branches and appear before leaves emerge. Spicebush plants have either male or female flowers. Male flowers are larger and showier, but female flowers produce bright red, berry-like fruits that are attractive in the landscape and relished by many birds. Both male and female plants are necessary for fruit production.

Spicebush is easily grown. Though commonly found in moist locations with partial shade, it also does well in average, well-drained soils and in full sun, if given enough moisture. Spicebush is great for shrub borders, woodland gardens and native plant gardens. The preferred food of the spicebush swallowtail, it is also good for naturalized plantings, since it is so beneficial to wildlife, including birds, small mammals and many species of moths and butterflies.

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