This native woody shrub is about 5-15' tall and much branched. The central trunk (if present) and larger branches are rather slender; their bark is brown, shiny, and sparsely covered with small white lenticels. These lenticels are circular-angular in shape. The slender branchlets are shiny and brown; their lenticels are white, dot-like, and insignificant. Alternate leaves are produced along new branchlets. The larger leaves are up to 5" long and 2½" across; they are ovate or ovate-obovate, smooth along their margins, wedge-shaped at their bottoms, and hairless. The slender pedicels of the larger leaves are up to ½" long. The smaller leaves are less than 2" long, more rounded and oval in shape, and less conspicuous than the larger leaves; otherwise, they have similar characteristics. Both types of leaves are medium green on the upper surface, and pale green on the lower surface. There is a variety of Spicebush that has pubescent branchlets and leaves, but it is uncommon and restricted to southern Illinois. The yellow flowers are perfect or dioecious (male & female flowers on separate shrubs); they occur in small clusters along the branchlets before the leaves develop. Individual flowers are less than ¼" across; each flower has 6 yellow sepals with a petal-like appearance and no petals. The male flowers have 9 stamens (organized into 3 groups), while the female flowers have an ovary with a single style and up to 18 pseudo-stamens. The blooming period occurs during the mid-spring and lasts about 2 weeks. The flowers are fragrant; the crushed leaves and branchlets have a spicy aroma. Each fertile flower is replaced by a fleshy ovoid drupe with a single stone; this drupe becomes red when it is mature during the late summer or fall. The woody roots are shallow and much branched. This shrub reproduces by reseeding itself.
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