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Lindera benzoin

Common Name(s):
Spice bush
Rubra , Xanthocarpa
Native Plants, Shrubs

Lindera benzoin, commonly called spicebush, is a native deciduous shrub with a broad, rounded habit which typically grows 6-12' (less frequently to 15') high in moist locations in bottomlands, woods, ravines, valleys and along streams.  It is a drought tolerant shrub that has leaves and twigs with a spicy fragrance.  It will tolearate wet planting sites.  Its bark is brown to gray/brown and speckled with light colored lenticels.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest:

     Foliage: Fall, yellow Bloom: Late summer  Fruit: Fall

Wildlife Value: This plant has low resistance to damage from deer.  It is a host plant for the spice bush swallowtail butterfly as well as a larval food for tiger swallowtail butterfly.  Its fruits are eaten by songbirds, especially during fall migration.  White tailed deer browse the twigs and leaves.

Play Value: Wildlife Enhancement 

Notes: Dioecious, so need a male and a female plant. 

Seed: Drupe

6-12 ft.
The Spice bush has thick, alternate, oblong-obovate, light green leaves (to 5" long) turn an attractive yellow in autumn. Leaves are aromatic (spicy fragrance) when crushed.
The Spice bush has clusters of tiny, apetalous, aromatic, greenish-yellow flowers that bloom along the branches in early spring before the foliage emerges. It has dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants), with the male flowers being larger and showier than the female ones. The flowers of female plants give way to bright red drupes (to 1/2" long) which mature in fall and are attractive to birds. Female plants need a male pollinator in order to set fruit (scarlet red), however. It's drupes are very attractive, but are largely hidden by the foliage until the leaves drop.
The Spice bush is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Fall color is best in sunny areas. It tolerates full shade, but habit becomes more open and wide-spreading. It also prefers an alkaline pH.
Rounded shrub to small tree; usually multitrunked; dense
Sun to partial shade; moist to dry soil; prefers an alkaline pH
Shiny greenish yellow spicily fragrant flowers in late winter; scarlet red spicy scented fruit in fall
6-10 ft.
Growth Rate:
Slow to moderate
3 to 5 in. alternate, simple leaves; brilliant yellow fall color
play, host plant, wet sites, deciduous, fragrant flowers, winter interest, birds, small tree, hedge, fragrant, wet, butterflies, wet soil, fall interest, wildlife playground, host, showy, rain garden, larval, children’s garden, fragrant foliage

NCCES plant id: 503

Lindera benzoin Lindera benzoin
William Avery Hudson
Lindera benzoin Lindera benzoin
rockerBOO, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Photo of Lindera benzoin fruit Lindera benzoin
Phillip Bouchard, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Lindera benzoin Lindera benzoin
Regina Kreger, CC BY-NC-2.0
Lindera benzoin Lindera benzoin
Lucy Bradley, CC BY-NC - 4.0