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Similar but less problematic plants:
Cyrilla racemiflora Form in bloom
Halesia carolina Full Form
Symplocos tinctoria Symplocos tinctoria
Litsea aestivalis is often confused with:
Lindera benzoin Lindera benzoin
Lindera melissifolia Flowers
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Salix caroliniana Salix caroliniana
Ulmus alata Ulmus alata
Myrica cerifera Myrica cerifera
Litsea aestivalis has some common insect problems:
Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle and Laurel Wilt Disease
Litsea aestivalis has some common disease problems:
Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle and Laurel Wilt Disease

Pond Spice Litsea aestivalis

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Glabraria geniculata
  • Laurus aestivalis
  • Litsea geniculata
Phonetic Spelling
LIT-see-a ee-STIV-ah-liss
Description

Litsea aestivalis, or Pondspice, is a native deciduous small tree or large shrub measuring 10-20 feet in height. It is rare and only found on the coastal plains of the southeastern United States from Florida to Maryland. It is listed as endangered in Florida and Maryland, and as threatened in Georgia. It may be found on the edge of swamps, cypress ponds, Carolina bays, and may form thickets near pond margins. The clearing and draining of wetlands has reduced this species' habitats making it a vulnerable species.

The Pondspice reproduces by seeds dispersed by birds or small mammals and by suckering or rhizomes. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants. The branches have a zigzag pattern which is distinctive for this species. The Pondberry, Lindera melissifolia, may be found in thickets near pond margins along with the Pondspice. The Pondspice may be easily confused with the Pondberry and the Spicebush. The Pondberry grows only about 6 feet high and has sassafras-like scented leaves. The Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, has noticeably larger leaves, oval fruit, and spicy scented twigs which do not zigzag.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  The Pondspice as well as other species of the Laurel family are at risk of being infected with a fungal disease known as Laurel Wilt. The Redbay Ambrosia Beetle is responsible for spreading the fungus which has resulted in threatening and endangering the native species of Pondspice and Pondberry.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#small tree#native tree#deciduous shrub#native shrub#wet sites#rare#OBL#wet soils tolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#small tree#native tree#deciduous shrub#native shrub#wet sites#rare#OBL#wet soils tolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Litsea
    Species:
    aestivalis
    Family:
    Lauraceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southeastern United States
    Distribution:
    Coastal Plains of Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    The female Pondspice flower attracts bees and flies for nectar and pollination. Birds and small mammals feed on the berries.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Rounded
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit, which occurs in the fall, is red, round, fleshy, and measures 0.2 to 0.4 inch long.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Umbel
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Petals:
    Colored Sepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The tiny flowers of the Pondspice appear in clusters on the tips of the branches and emerge before the leaves appear. Each flower is 0.25 inches wide and has 6 yellow sepals. The female and male flowers grow on separate plants. The female flowers have 1 ovary, 9 non functional stamens, 1 pistil, and ring of nectar producing glands. The male flowers have 9 stamens and 4 openings on the anther. They bloom in late winter to early spring from March to April.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Smooth
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The small leaves are green through the spring and summer months, but in the fall, they turn to a bright yellow.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The branches are reddish brown in color, smooth to sparsely pubescent and have a distinctive zigzag shape.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Pond
    Landscape Theme:
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Shade Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Small Tree
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Wet Soil