Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Lindera benzoin

Northern spicebush, Spicebush, Wild allspice

Lauraceae (Laurel Family)

Lindera benzoin (Northern spicebush)
Makin, Julie
Northern spicebush is a single- or few-stemmed, deciduous shrub, 6-12 ft. tall, with glossy leaves and graceful, slender, light green branches. Leaves alternate on the branchlets, up to 6 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide, upper surface dark green, lower surface lighter in color, obovate, tapering more gradually to the base than to the tip, tip somewhat extended margins without teeth or lobes. Dense clusters of tiny, pale yellow flowers bloom before the leaves from globose buds along the twigs. Flowers occur in umbel-like clusters and are followed by glossy red fruit. Both the fruit and foliage are aromatic. Leaves turn a colorful golden-yellow in fall.

In the North this plant is thought of as the “forsythia of the wilds” because its early spring flowering gives a subtle yellow tinge to many lowland woods where it is common. A tea can be made from the aromatic leaves and twigs.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Size Notes: 6-12
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Red
Size Class: 6-12 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MS , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , DC
Canada: ON , PE
Native Distribution: S.w. ME, c. MI & s.e. KS, s. to FL & s.e. TX, with disjunct populations in c. TX, widely separated from those in s.e. TX
Native Habitat: Low, deciduous woods; stream banks; swamps

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Moist , Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist, sandy, well-drained soils. Caliche type, Limestone-based, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam
Conditions Comments: Spicebush is a fast-growing shrub, useful in moist, shady places. A small amount of sun yields a bush with better form and more berries. There are no serious disease or insect problems.


Use Food: A tea can be made from the aromatic leaves and twigs, and the tried and powdered fruit can be used as a spice. (Niering)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Lindera benzoin is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Spicebush Swallowtail
(Papilio troilus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Promethea silkmoth
(Callosamia promethea)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
(Papilio glaucus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2013-10-27