What is a Spice Bush?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2018
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Spice bush, formally known as Lindera benzoin, is a low maintenance shrub in the Laurel family. It can be found growing naturally in woods, along streams, and in valleys. It is native to North America and can be found in a wide range of states in the United States such as Missouri, Maine, and Florida. It can also be found in Canada in Ontario and on Prince Edward Island.

A spice bush is characterized by dense tufts of yellow flowers that appear before the leaves. These flowers originate from buds along its slender branches. The flowers usually bloom in the early spring.

When the leaves appear later, they are simple, glossy, and green. In the fall, however, the leaves turn golden yellow. Spice bush is deciduous, meaning it will lose its leaves in the fall. Both the flowers and the foliage are fragrant.

This shrub produces fruit in the form of red berries, which contain large seeds. More berries are likely to grow if the shrub is only exposed to small amounts of sun. Spice bush is dioecious, meaning that some plants have male organs and others have female organs. It is, therefore, important to have at least one shrub of each sex to bear fruit.


Spice bush can grow in a variety of conditions. It can grow while in the shade and wet soil or it can grow while in the sun and dry soil. Best results, however, are experienced when it is exposed to low sunlight and placed in moist, sandy soil. Its height usually peaks between 6 and 12 feet tall (1.8 and 3.6 m) and it can spread the same distance. Pesticides are usually not necessary because there are no disease or insect problems noted for this plant.

This shrub is often installed by landscapers. It is commonly used to create hedges. Seeds can be bought from retailers or they can be collected from late summer until October.

Spice bush is good for more than aesthetic purposes. Tea can be made from the twigs or the leaves. The berries can be dried and powdered to make a spice. They can also be used fresh to flavor soups and stews.

Birds are attracted to the shrub for its berries. It is a larval host for butterflies, such as the spicebush swallowtail, Promethea silkmoth, and Eastern tiger swallowtail. These and other butterflies are often attracted to the plant for a source of nectar.



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