Lindera benzoin Lauraceae

Growth habit


Native distribution

Native to the Finger Lakes Region, Ontario to ME and KS, South to FL and TX


A fragrant shrub that flowers in early spring before leafing out. Leaves turn yellow in fall and females sport attractive red berries. Light: sun to light shade Moisture and Soil: moist to wet soil (but can adapt to drier soil)


Seed Treatment and Storage: Remove pulp, keep seeds moist, cool/moist stratify, germination can take multiple years

Biocultural value

Young spicebush twigs make a fragrant tea. The dried and powdered berries have been used as a substitute for allspice. The Cherokee and Chippewa also used the stems and leaves to season strong-flavored meats such as opossum and groundhog. The Haudenosaunee used various parts of the plant, including the bark and roots, to treat colds, measles, and venereal diseases. The Creek also included spicebush in an herbal steam for aches and pains and the Rappahannock used it as a gynecological remedy.

Wildlife value

Spicebush flowers are cross-pollinated by various insects, particularly small bees and various flies. Several insects eat the foliage, including the caterpillars of spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus). The grubs of the sassafras borer (Oberea ruficollis) drill into the branches and roots. Spicebush's reddish, one-seeded fruits are relished by thrushes, particularly the wood thrush and veery who, along with about thirteen other bird species, consume most as soon as they ripen. The plant's aromatic characteristics may give it some protection against deer browsing.


Mundy Wildflower Garden, Houston and Grossman Ponds, Bioswale Garden, Zucker Shrub Collection, Cayuta Lake, Coy Glen, Fischer Old-growth Forest, Eames Bog, Purvis Road Wetlands Natural Area, Ringwood Ponds, South Hill Swamp

Source of plant

BZ Marranca, Horticultural Associates, Princeton Nurseries, Cornell Botanic Gardens, John Filkins, Lake County Nursery Inc., Edgewood Nursery


Usually rounded in outline, somewhat loose and open in the wild, full and broad-rounded in full sun, 6'to 12' in height with a similar spread. Fall color light yellow. Flowers dioecious, greenish-yellow,borne in early to mid-April before the leaves in axillary clusters; attractive but not showy. Fruit adrupe, 2/5" across, bright scarlet, ripening in September, seldom seen since it is showy only after theleaves have fallen and is borne only on pistillate plants, but it can be very ornamental.

USDA Hardiness Zone


Special characteristics