Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin

Northern Spicebush

Lindera benzoin

Benefits: Pollinator Benefit Graphic
Sun Shade: Plant Light Requirements Graphic
Bloom Time: Spring
Hardiness Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Soil Conditions: Loam
Soil Moisture: Medium, Moist
Color: Green, Yellow
Fragrance: Yes
Height: 6-12 feet
Spacing: 6-12 feet

Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, is a native deciduous shrub with a broad, rounded habit which typically grows 6-12 feet high in moist locations in bottomlands, woods, ravines, valleys and along streams. The woody roots are shallow and much branched.

Clusters of tiny, aromatic, greenish-yellow flowers bloom along the branches in early spring before the foliage emerges. Dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants), with the male flowers being larger and showier than the female ones. Flowers of female plants give way to bright red drupes (to ½-inch long) which mature in fall and are attractive to birds. Female plants need a male pollinator in order to set fruit, however. Drupes are very attractive, but are largely hidden by the foliage until the leaves drop. Thick, oblong-obovate, light green leaves (to 5 inches long) turn an attractive yellow in autumn. Leaves are aromatic when crushed.

Habitats include rich deciduous woodlands, wooded bluffs, bottomland forests along rivers, wooded slopes (usually toward the bottom), and gravelly seeps in shaded areas. While Spicebush is fairly shade-tolerant, it benefits from occasional disturbance that reduces the dense shade of some canopy trees, particularly Sugar Maple, American Beech, and similar trees.

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Fall color is best in sunny areas. Tolerates full shade, but habit becomes more open and wide-spreading.

Culinary Uses:

The leaves and berries of this plant can be eaten raw or cooked. A tea can be made from all parts of this plant, most commonly twigs and leaves, it has a refreshing flavor and texture. Also the berries that ripen in early fall have a taste similar to allspice, it is a warm spice that can be used in baking and pies. They are usually used fresh or frozen for later use. The leaves can also be eaten raw, usually as a condiment, and the young bark is said to be good to chew on.

 Plant Notes and Herbal Uses
  The caterpillar of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly feeds on the leaves of this shrub.
  This shrub reproduces by reseeding itself.
 Further Information

 Wisconsin Fruit Trees
 Wisconsin Edible Berry Shrubs
 Widsconsin Edible Plants-Eat On The Wild Side
 8 Dandelion Recipes
 Wisconsin Native Plant Nurseries

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