Category Archives: Native Plants

Plants of New Jersey # 19 Sassafras


Young Sassafras Tree

Welcome! Today we are going to discuss Sassafras (Sassafras albidum). Sassafras can grow up to 80 feet but usually is found as a small tree growing to 50 feet. It’s wetland indicator status is FACU which means that most of the time you will find this tree growing in uplands. The tree is part of the Laurel family of plants. The tree can grow in shade but does not thrive until a disturbance opens the forest canopy. It is typically found in forest edges, roadsides and old fields. The tree is a cloning plant where new trees are grown from its roots.

Sassafras Leaves

The tree is unique for a few reasons. One: Sassafras has three different types of leaves (especially younger trees). The leaves can be three lobed, mitten shaped or not have any lobes at all. The tree has green to yellowish flowers that appear between April and June. The second reason is the pleasant aroma the tree emits especially when scraping a twig. The tree is known to have cancer causing qualities so do not eat any of this plant. Berries are purple on red stems and ripen between September and October. Birds known to eat the berries include:

White-Tailed Deer and Eastern Cottontail are known to browse the tree as well.

Sassafras in the Fall

The tree, along with Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), are host to the Spicebush Caterpillar.

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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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Plants of New Jersey # 17 Pale Corydalis


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Pale Corydalis (Capnoides sempervirens)

Welcome! Today we are going to discuss Pale Corydalis (Capnoides sempervirens). Pale Corydalis is a perennial native plant and belongs to the Bleeding-Heart family of plants. The plant is found in dry-mesic (moist) forest environments but I generally have always seen them growing out of rock crevices. The plant is found in areas of disturbance, especially areas after a fire has occurred and diminishes in numbers once enough time has passed following the disturbance.  Plants you might find growing near Pale Corydalis are Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) among others.

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Pale Corydalis Flowers

The flowers of this plant are pink with a yellow tip. It blooms between May and September in New Jersey. The plant itself grows from 6-36 inches.

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Pale Corydalis Almost Ready to Bloom

The plant is a rosette of leaves the first year and starts blooming its second year.

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