Plants of New Jersey # 18 Spice Bush

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Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) in bloom

Welcome! Today we are going to discuss Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin). Spicebush is a shrub found in the deciduous forests of New Jersey (in the Pine Barrens It is only found growing along tidal streams). The shrub, part of the Laurel family of plants, can grow from 4-16 feet. It is one of the first native shrubs to bloom following winter (a welcome sight indeed – especially for early pollinators!). All parts of the shrub have a sweet to spicy odor, hence its common name.

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Spicebush in bloom with an understory of Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

The wetland indicator status of Spicebush is FACW which means that in 99% of the time you will find this shrub growing in freshwater wetlands. It’s common to find this shrub blooming in the spring with an understory of Eastern Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and False Hellebore (Veratrum viride).  The shrub spreads via root sprouts which creates colonies.

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Spicebush Leaves

In early spring the yellow flowers of Spicebush makes it easy to identify. You might not notice the shrub  once the flowers have passed until it forms its berries later in the summer. If they are not eaten, the berries will last through the winter.

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Immature Spicebush Berries

Above is a picture of the immature berries of Spicebush which will turn red when mature. The berries are a favorite food of:

Spicebush is also a major host to the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly.

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6 thoughts on “Plants of New Jersey # 18 Spice Bush

  1. shoreacres

    I’m surprised to see that this plant grows in Texas, both in the piney woods and in a part of the hill country that I visit. I’d better give this post a couple more reads, so I’ll remember to think about spicebush when I find something I don’t recognize.

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  2. Plantlust

    Other interesting info. Fall color is a nice clear yellow. Spicebush is dioecious, so male and female flowers are on different plants. Only the female shrubs will have the bright, cardinal-red berries that look like they’ve been waxed. Cardinals & robins love the berries, at least here SW of Chicago. And drumrooooolllll…
    the most favorite thing for me is the scent of the leaves. It’s an intense spicy citrus smell that makes you want to roll around naked in it. Human catnip🤣

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  3. Pingback: Plants of New Jersey # 19 Sassafras | NJUrbanForest.com

  4. Pingback: Spicebush is a shrub found in the deciduous forests of Eastern North America. The shrub, part of the Laurel family of plants, can grow from 4-16 feet. – Hiking Tips

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