Lindera benzoin

Kingdom: Plantae

Phylum: Magnoliophyta

Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicot

Order: Laurales

Family: Lauraceae

Genus: Lindera

Species: benzoin

Where in the OLL?

Spicebush is found in the permaculture garden in the OLL. Spicebush fits with the permaculture idea of having multiple uses. It provides food, beauty, and flood management. It is a native plant, and also a wetland plant. It helps with flooding due to its water absorptive capabilities, and its berries are eaten by over 20 species of birds, as well as smaller mammals. If it is in full or partial sun, it has a brilliant showy yellow fall foliage.

Plant growth form

Above ground woody shrub. 1-5 meters tall, close to equal width. Simple deciduous leaves, one leaf per node. Elliptic to oblong 6-14cm. Hairy on the underside of leaves with distinct veins.

Leaves have a strong spicy aroma when crushed or broken.

Flowers, fruits & pollinators

Cluster of flowers in groups of 4-6. 5mm in length and diameter.

Flowers in early spring from March-April before the leaves appear.  Greenish yellow flowers. It has a dioecious floral arrangement. Dioecious means only ‘male’ flowers or ‘female’ flowers on a plant. “Female” flowers have one larger fertile pistil with a whiteish stigma. Their flower buds are less clustered than the male flowers. The small infertile stamens at the base of the pistil are called staminodia and produce nectar. “Male” flowers have nine fertile (pollen producing) stamens, with the middle three having nectar glands at the base. Each filament has two indented glands. The anthers open through flaps like trapdoors. Both male and female flowers have a six membered perianth (sepals + petals). Distinguishing between petals and sepals is not clear.


Ideal location, conditions & cultural needs

Does well in shady areas, but also can grow in full sun. Likes moist well-drained soil with a pH range of 5.0-8.0. No special nutrient needs


Planning & maintenance

Can grow up to a small tree  5-15ft, taking up 45-150 square feet. It does not need regular trimming. 

Cultivars & propagation

‘Green gold’- Showy large yellow flowers

‘Rubra’- brick red, male flowered selection. 

Propagate by seed. Difficult to transplant. Can be found at Nasami farms in Whately.

Pests & pathogens

Nothing to note.

Landscape & ecosystem

Showy yellow foliage especially in the fall. 

Swallowtail butterflies pollinate and lay their eggs on the shrub. Provides food for over 20 species of birds. Raccoons, possums, and deer have been recorded eating the twigs and bark.

Human uses

Leaves, twigs, and berries have been used by people. Essential oils have been made from the leaves and fruits. Minor uses in teas. Extracts from leaves and twigs used for anti-arthritic, diaphoretic, and emetic drugs, as well as herbal steams. Chemical analysis of leaves has revealed they contain 39 different oils the uses of which have not been fully examined. European settlers used it as an indicator for good agricultural land, because it typically grows in rich forests.

Plant catalogued by Alex Davidson-Carroll
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