My Spicebush Is Blooming! Wildflower Wednesday April 2016

– Posted in: Native/Invasive, The Secret Garden, What's up/blooming

My spicebush is blooming! Only a mother–I mean, a gardener–could be so happy about the blessed event.


young spicebush Lindera benzoin

What do you mean, you can’t see anything? (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Well–ahem–yes, they are rather small. Try this:
Spicebush bloom detail2

Can you see the flowers yet?

Spicebush bloom detail

How about now? Do you see them?

Okay, let’s really zoom in:
spicebush flowers closeup Lindera benzoin

Spicebush flowers, up close

What’s so great about spicebush?

I saw my first spicebushes in 2009 in the Mundy Wildflower Garden on the grounds of Cornell Plantation in Ithaca, New York. There were several of them, and they looked like this:

Lindera_benzoin_1 courtesy Mt Cuba

A mature spicebush. Photo © Mt. Cuba Center and used with permission.

I was enchanted, and I wanted to create the same effect along the banks of the side creek here. It took me a while to even find a spicebush, but I finally bought one from The Plantsmen Nursery in 2012. It was blooming in the pot, but it hadn’t bloomed since.

Until this year.

I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong. Were cold temperatures in the winter killing the buds? Was it in too much shade? Was it too dry? Now that it has bloomed, I don’t worry so much about these things. Being planted in the Secret Garden, it isn’t being coddled with perfect soil and perfect lighting, and it just needed to grow up a little before flowering again.

My main reason for planting a spicebush was aesthetic. I wanted that ethereal loveliness in my early spring garden. I try to plant only plants native to northeast North American in the Secret Garden, and when I saw it in Ithaca, which is about an hour and a half from my garden, I was pretty sure it would do well here. Other reasons to plant Lindera benzoin? It is the preferred larval host of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly (Papilio troilus). Promethea silkmoth (Callosamia promethea) and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) larva also feed on spicebush. Birds love the berries, but spicebush is dioecious, so I would need a second shrub of the opposite sex to get berries. One day… Oh, I almost forgot–in the fall the foliage turns a glorious gold.

Right now it’s a shrub only a gardener could love, but just give it ten years.

Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogasphere. “It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!”

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

Comments on this entry are closed.

Donna@Gardens Eye View May 6, 2016, 4:59 pm

The late April freezes snapped mine again along with hydrangea, most of my lilac and my forsythia. Without enough snow cover, and after a warm March, they were budding too fast when the cold snap came….lovely to see yours bloomed.

Kathy Purdy May 6, 2016, 6:30 pm

It’s interesting how that cold snap had different effects depending on how warm it had been previously. My neighbor’s Meadowlark forsythias lost all their flower buds to it, but I don’t think our lilacs had broken bud at that point. The tips of the daffodils got burned but most of my daffodils came up fine. The yews at the front of the house, however, got totally burned and browned up, except for the 6 inches at the bottom where the snow had covered them. And they have sailed through sub-zero weather in other winters.

Kathryn Mollach May 2, 2016, 10:43 am

I have a large spice bush. It has burgeoned out and is crowding other bushes in my shubbery. It only blooms on the outer fringes. My daughter had the same problem with hers. Question: Should I prune it way back? I am tempted to do so, after the first bloom. Advice would be appreciated!

Kathy Purdy May 2, 2016, 11:42 am

Hi Kathryn – more than one shrub is called spicebush. Your description of its burgeoning growth doesn’t sound typical of the northern spicebush I am talking about in my blog post. Are you talking about Lindera benzoin, the spicebush I am talking about? Or do you have Calycanthus floridus, which is also called spicebush? Or do you have Ribes odoratum, which is also called spicebush? Search online for each of those botanical names and decide which one describes your spicebush. Also please tell us your state and county, and your hardiness zone if you know it, so we can get a better idea of your climate. After we know those things we may be able to help you with the pruning question.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern May 1, 2016, 6:02 pm

Beautiful! I have two Spicebush who both battled Bindweed while trying to get started. I believe I ordered them from a fairly local nursery – but they arrived in the mail as “sticks.” One, I moved for better odds. The other, doing okay. They are both blooming right now! I love them. I love them especially in the fall with their beautiful yellow leaves. I am so happy yours feels at home.

Beth @ PlantPostings April 30, 2016, 10:22 pm

Congratulations! And this is a good post to celebrate wildflowers. I always enjoy the promise of young, old, and stubborn plants–like early buds, young trees, persistent plants that hang on through the first frost, and plants that grow in cracks along concrete streets. Anyway, blessings on your developing Spicebush! 🙂

Michaele Anderson April 30, 2016, 2:31 pm

It’s important to keep that self aware sense of humor as a gardener…knowing that we have our little quirks. I have a tendency to count flower stems/buds on plants their first couple of years until I relax and know that there are coming back bigger and better each year.

Kathy Purdy April 30, 2016, 3:37 pm

Yes, I was poking fun at myself. And right now I am wondering why no Jack-in-the-pulpits have emerged when the trilliums are up. When you are a gardener there is always something to be anxious about if that is your tendency. Fortunately most of the time most of us can keep it somewhat in check. But in gardening–as in any art–there is scope for the full range of emotions.

Pat Webster April 30, 2016, 8:42 am

LOVE your spicebush, Kathy. I have wanted one for a long time but have had no luck finding one. If anyone knows a Canadian source, I’d appreciate the info.

Joanne Toft April 30, 2016, 8:12 am

I have a bush I have called a spice bush – it is in the current family. It leaves out and the flowers – small yellow flower that are similar to the forsythia. It smells like nutmeg when blooming.
I love this one. Good luck in keeping it growing!