We’re always on the lookout for plants that can solve problems for our customers. We think spicebush, Lindera spp, might be one of those plants! This wonderful native plant grows naturally from Maine to Ontario and Kansas and south to Florida and Texas.
This medium to large shrub, flowers in April on bare stems. The yellow flowers remind me just a little bit of witchhazel, or winterhazel, but are smaller and held close to the twigs. They are a good nectar source for insects waking up from their winter nap. The mid-green, ovate, fragrant leaves turn yellow in the fall. This plant is the sole food source for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly, and worthy of planting just to feed their caterpillars! Similar to hollies, spicebush are dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female plants. The males have somewhat showier flowers, but the females will produce red, elongated berries in the fall that feed migrating birds.
Spicebush is easy enough to grow in a wide range of soils and conditions. Although they will have a denser habit in more sun, they perform well in part shade and do well in areas with moist soils. Try planting it with arrowwood viburnum and Clethra in dappled sun. Tall native perennials like Joe Pye weed and rose mallow would also make good companions.