Northern Spicebush (Benzoin) is generally described as
a perennial tree or shrub.
native to the U.S. (United States)
has its most active growth period in the
spring and summer .
Northern Spicebush (Benzoin) has
green foliage and
white flowers, with
a smattering of
conspicuous red fruits or seeds.
The greatest bloom is usually observed in the
with fruit and seed production starting in the
summer and continuing until
not retained year to year.
Northern Spicebush (Benzoin) has a
long life span relative to most other plant species and a
slow growth rate.
At maturity, the typical
Northern Spicebush (Benzoin) will reach up to
12 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of
Northern Spicebush (Benzoin) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by
bare root, container, seed.
It has a
slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have
Note that cold stratification is
not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below
low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.
Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.
Over 20 species of birds, as well as deer, rabbits, raccoons, and opossums have been recorded as browsing the leaves or eating the fruits. The fruits are a special favorite of wood thrushes. The spicebush swallowtail, Papilio troilus (L.), lays its eggs on spicebush and other plants in the Laurel Family – sassafras, redbay, and camphortree.
There apparently are no commercial uses of spicebush, but the essential oils of leaves, twigs, and fruits have lent themselves for minor use for tea, and dried fruits have been used in fragrant sachets. Native Americans used dried fruits as a spice and the leaves for tea. Extracts have been used for drugs, including anti-arthritic, diaphoretic, emetic and herbal steam. The benzoin of drug trade is produced by species of Styrax (Styraceae).
Because of its habitat in rich woods, early land surveyors and settlers used spicebush as an indicator species for good agricultural land.
Spicebush plants make nicely shaped shrubs with deep green leaves and, if in at least partial sun, the leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. It is a good choice for plantings in shady locations but can also grow in full sun. Moist soil is best.
General: Laurel Family (Lauraceae). Native shrubs, growing mostly 1-3(-5) meters tall, sometimes a small tree; reproducing asexually by root sprouting (most spicebush patches and thickets are probably clonal). Leaves are thin, deciduous, glabrous or sparsely pubescent on the lower surface, obovate to oblong or elliptic, 6-14 cm long, pointed at both ends, entire, on petioles 5-12 mm long, usually largest at the branch tips, decreasing in size down the branch. Flowers appearing before the leaves, in clusters on nodes of last year’s growth, either staminate (pollen-producing), with 9 fertile stamens, or pistillate (with a fertile ovary and 12-18 rudimentary, infertile stamens), both types with 6 short, yellowish sepals, the female and male on different plants (the species dioecious). Fruit is a short-stalked, ellipsoid, shiny-red berry 6-10 mm long, with a single seed. The common name refers to the sweet, spicy fragrance of the stems, leaves, and fruits when bruised.
Variation within the species: Lindera benzoin var. pubescens (Palmer & Steyermark) Rehd. is the more southern form of the species, absent from the northernmost states of the species range, with twigs and lower leaf surfaces hairy (vs. glabrous in var. benzoin). Var. benzoin does not occur in the states directly bordering the Gulf of Mexico.
Two closely related species (the only other species of the genus in North America) occur in the southeastern US, where they are rare throughout their range –– Lindera melissifolia (Walt.) Blume, pondberry or southern spicebush, and Lindera subcoriacea B.E. Wofford, bog spicebush. Allozyme studies of populations of spicebush and pondberry show that both species have low levels of genetic diversity.
Required Growing Conditions
Spicebush occurs over all of the eastern US, from east Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas eastward to the Atlantic states as far north as Maine (and Ontario), not reported from Wisconsin. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Cultivation and Care
Adaptation: Spicebush is primarily an understory species, sometimes forming thickets, of rich, mesic sites on acidic to basic soils. Common habitats are low woods, swamp margins, and streamsides. Flowering: March-April; fruits maturing August-October (-November).
General: Seeds are dispersed as animals and birds eat the fruits. Seeds germinate in the litter layer in the spring or they may remain viable in the seed bank for many years. Much of the reproduction is clonal through root sprouting.
General Upkeep and Control
Spicebush successfully grows and reproduces in a wide range of light conditions. Although it does grow and reproduce under completely closed canopy openings in the canopy increase growth rate. It is considered difficult to transplant but has few serious disease problems.
Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database, plants.usda.gov.
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA