Spicebush, named for its spicy, fragrant leaves and stems, is native to moist woodlands in the Midwest and occasionally occur in the Chicago area. It is most often used in landscapes in shrub borders and naturalized areas. Bright red fruits ripen from July through October on female plants, but are only showy once the foliage falls off. High in fat content in the berries are quickly eaten by various species of birds.
"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Mixed border,
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
- Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil,
- Wet soil
- Occasional drought,
- Wet sites,
- Occasional flooding
Season of Interest:
- Early spring,
- Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size & Form
6 to 12 feet high and wide with an open, rounded habit.
Tree & Plant Care
Difficult to transplant because of fiberous root system.
Best in part shade but will tolerant full sun with adequate soil moisture.
Prune after flowering.
All parts of plant are highly aromatic when crushed.
Disease, pests, and problems
Native geographic location and habitat
Found in moist locations in bottomlands, woods, ravines, valleys and along streams.
Native to eastern North America.
Attracts birds & butterflies
High-energy fruit attracts many birds.
Flowers are a favorite of many butterflies, and the larvae (caterpillar) of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly feeds on the leaves.
Bark color and texture
Stems are a greenish tan with light colored lenticles.
Mature bark is dark brown with a hint of green.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Thick, oblong, light green leaves , 4 to 6 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide are pointed at both ends. Margins are slightly wavy.
Leaves remain green long into fall, but turn an attractive yellow in late autumn.
Leaves are aromatic when crushed.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants).
Bright yellow flower clusters appear before the leaves in early spring.
Male flowers are larger and showier than the female flowers.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
A male pollinator in needed in order to set fruit on the female plant.
Female plants produce 1/2-inch long, clusters of bright red fruits (drupes), which mature in fall. Drupes are showy, but hidden by the foliage until the leaves drop.
This high energy fruit is a favorite for many birds.