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Leaves and fruit of spicebush.

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."

Botanical name:

Lindera benzoin

All common names:

Spicebush, spice-bush

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Utility

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)

Hardiness Zones:

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

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Wet soil


  • Occasional drought,
  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding

Seasons of Interest:

  • early spring,
  • early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • Yellow

Shape or Form:

  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Open,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Slow,
  • Moderate

More Information:

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.
Drought sensitive.

Disease, pests, and problems

None serious.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 7
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. 



Location of Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) at the Arboretum