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Spicebush Provides A Refined Softness To A Shady Landscape

Lindera benzoin, commonly known as spicebush, is a native multi-stemmed, understory shrub that can grow as wide as it is tall.


In zones 4 to 9 Lindera (spicebush) can grow up to 18 feet tall but can be pruned to a smaller size. It smells like spicy aftershave if the leaves or bark are crushed, and it grows in swamps and moist woodlands from Maine to Michigan and south to Florida and Texas.

Spicebush blooms in early spring on old wood and produces fragrant yellow clusters along leafless stems. In full bloom it looks like a refined, understated forsythia with a softness that the brash forsythia lacks. The individual flowers are very small, and they stud the bare branches with male and female flowers on separate plants.

The leaves appear after the blooms and get progressively larger as they reach the tips of each branch. Female spicebush shrubs produce shiny oval fruits that birds enjoy. Lindera shrubs are adaptable to varied sites and conditions and produce yellow fall foliage in sun or light shade. The deer are not attracted to them, probably because of their scent, but Lindera is a host plant for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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