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Calycanthus occidentalis (Western sweetshrub)
Hardie-Scott, Linda

Calycanthus occidentalis

Calycanthus occidentalis Hook. & Arn.

Western Sweetshrub, California Sweet Shrub, Spice Bush, Western Spicebush

Calycanthaceae (Strawberry-shrub Family)


USDA Symbol: caoc5

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

A mound-shaped, deciduous shrub, Western sweetshrub grows 6-15 ft. tall, with erect, multiple stems and glossy, aromatic, leathery, dark-green foliage. Terminal blossoms are solitary and dark red with numerous overlapping, strap-like petals. Unlike its eastern relative, Calycanthus floridus, the flowers of this sweet shrub are not fragrant. Leaves become yellow in fall but are usually not showy.


From the Image Gallery

1 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Leaf Shape: Lanceolate , Ovate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Entire
Leaf Apex: Acute
Leaf Base: Rounded
Fruit Type: Achene
Size Notes: Height and spread 4-12 feet.
Flower: Flowers up to 3 inches across.
Fruit: 1-1 1/4 inches long.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Pink , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct
Bloom Notes: Each bloom only lasts 1-2 days.


Native Distribution: CA Coast Ranges & w. Sierra Nevadas from Tulare Co. to Shasta Co.
Native Habitat: Moist stream banks below 4000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Moist soils.
Conditions Comments: Calycanthus occidentalis will develop leaf burn if planting site is too dry.


Use Ornamental: Introduced into cultivation in 1831.
Use Other: Wood used by indigenous peoples for arrows.
Fragrant Foliage: yes


Propagation Material: Clump Division , Seeds , Softwood Cuttings
Description: Sow fresh, untreated seeds or store and stratify.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Prune only if needed.

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

Status: FAC FAC
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Additional resources

USDA: Find Calycanthus occidentalis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Calycanthus occidentalis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Calycanthus occidentalis


Record Modified: 2011-01-08
Research By: TWC Staff

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