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Carolina allspice

The unusual flower of Carolina allspice.

 Carolina-Allspice is a dense, rounded shrub reaching 6 to 9 feet high. It has unusual, strap-like, maroon to reddish-brown flowers with a sweet banana-strawberry fragrance.  Fruit is a persistent, urn-shape brown seed pod.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Calycanthus floridus

All common names:

Carolina-Allspice, Carolina Allspice, Common Sweetshrub, Sweetshrub, Spicebush

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Sandy soil


  • Occasional drought,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Clay soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • mid spring,
  • late spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • Purple,
  • Red

Shape or Form:

  • Broad,
  • Irregular,
  • Mounded,
  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Round,
  • Thicket-forming

Growth Rate:

  • Slow,
  • Moderate

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

A 6 to 10 feet high and wide shrub, typically rounded but can be open and loose.
Grows in sun to part shade, but thrives best in rich, moist soil in part shade. Protect in windy sites.
Shallow rooted and benefits with a layer of mulch to conserve moisture.
Prune after flowering, may need renewal pruning if it becomes leggy.

Disease, pests and problems

No serious problems

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the southeastern U.S.

Bark color and texture 

Smooth gray brown bark; fragrant when scratched.

Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus)
Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus)
photo: John Hagstrom

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, opposite, 2 to 6 inches long;  elliptical to obovate, leathery, dark green
to yellow-green in fall

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers appear before the leaves.
Large, 2-inch wide solitary flowers  with numerous maroon to reddish-brown strap-like petals.
Very fragrant with a strawbery-banana-pineapple scent.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Unusual, leathery, urn-shaped fruiting capsules ripen and turn brown in September-October.
Persist into winter

Cultivars and their differences  

Aphrodite sweetshrub  (Calycanthus floridus 'Aphrodite'): An upright, 4 to 6 feet high shrub with bright red flowers.

Athens sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus 'Athens'):  A dense, mounded 6 foot high shrub with yellow, very fragrant flowers

Related species

Hartlage Wine sweetshrub (Calycanthus x raulstonii): This is a hybrid cross with showy,  2-inch wide, slightly fragrant , deep maroon flowers. Shrub reaches  6 to 8 feet high and wide. Excellent in sun or shade. Hardy to Zone 6.  May be difficult to find in nurseries.

Venus sweetshrub (Calycanthus 'Venus'):  This is a hybrid cross with white flowers with purple centers.  The flowers are very fragrant.  It does not produce fruit.  Venus sweetshrub has fragrant white flowers.


Location of Calycanthus floridus (Carolina allspice) at the Arboretum