Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

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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Description

General: Laurel Family (Lauraceae). Native shrubs, growing mostly 1-3(-5) meters tall, sometimes a small tree; reproducing asexually by root sprouting (most spicebush patches and thickets are probably clonal). Leaves are thin, deciduous, glabrous or sparsely pubescent on the lower surface, obovate to oblong or elliptic, 6-14 cm long, pointed at both ends, entire, on petioles 5-12 mm long, usually largest at the branch tips, decreasing in size down the branch. Flowers appearing before the leaves, in clusters on nodes of last year’s growth, either staminate (pollen-producing), with 9 fertile stamens, or pistillate (with a fertile ovary and 12-18 rudimentary, infertile stamens), both types with 6 short, yellowish sepals, the female and male on different plants (the species dioecious). Fruit is a short-stalked, ellipsoid, shiny-red berry 6-10 mm long, with a single seed. The common name refers to the sweet, spicy fragrance of the stems, leaves, and fruits when bruised.

Variation within the species: Lindera benzoin var. pubescens (Palmer & Steyermark) Rehd. is the more southern form of the species, absent from the northernmost states of the species range, with twigs and lower leaf surfaces hairy (vs. glabrous in var. benzoin). Var. benzoin does not occur in the states directly bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

Two closely related species (the only other species of the genus in North America) occur in the southeastern US, where they are rare throughout their range –– Lindera melissifolia (Walt.) Blume, pondberry or southern spicebush, and Lindera subcoriacea B.E. Wofford, bog spicebush. Allozyme studies of populations of spicebush and pondberry show that both species have low levels of genetic diversity.

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Alternative names

Northern spicebush, Benjaminbush

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Description

General: Laurel Family (Lauraceae). Native shrubs, mostly growing 1-3(-5) meters tall, sometimes a small tree; reproducing asexually by root sprouting (most spicebush patches and thickets are probably clonal). Leaves are thin, deciduous, glabrous or sparsely pubescent on the lower surface, obovate to oblong or elliptic, 6-14 cm long, pointed at both ends, entire, on petioles 5-12 mm long, usually largest at the branch tips, decreasing in size down the branch. Flowers appearing before the leaves, in clusters on nodes of last year’s growth, either staminate (pollen-producing), with 9 fertile stamens, or pistillate (with a fertile ovary and 12-18 rudimentary, infertile stamens), both types with 6 short, yellowish sepals, the female and male on different plants (the species dioecious). Fruit a short-stalked, ellipsoid, shiny-red berry 6-10 mm long, with a single seed. The common name refers to the sweet, spicy fragrance of the stems, leaves, and fruits when bruised.

Variation within the species: Lindera benzoin var. pubescens (Palmer & Steyermark) Rehd. is the more southern form of the species, absent from the northernmost states of the species range, with twigs and lower leaf surfaces hairy (vs. glabrous in var. benzoin). Var. benzoin does not occur in the states directly bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

Two closely related species (the only other species of the genus in North America) occur in the southeastern US, where they are rare throughout their range –– Lindera melissifolia (Walt.) Blume, pondberry or southern spicebush, and Lindera subcoriacea B.E. Wofford, bog spicebush. Allozyme studies of populations of spicebush and pondberry show that both species have low levels of genetic diversity.

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Alternative names

Northern spicebush, benjaminbush

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Description

General: Laurel Family (Lauraceae). Native shrubs, growing mostly 1-3(-5) meters tall, sometimes a small tree; reproducing asexually by root sprouting (most spicebush pathes and thickets are probably clonal). Leaves are thin, deciduous, glabrous or sparsely pubescent on the lower surface, obovate to oblong or elliptic, 6-14 cm long, pointed at both ends, entire, on petioles 5-12 mm long, usually largest at the branch tips, decreasing in size down the branch. Flowers appearing before the leaves, in clusters on nodes of last year’s growth, either staminate (pollen-producing), with 9 fertile stamens, or pistillate (with a fertile ovary and 12-18 rudimentary, infertile stamens), both types with 6 short, yellowish sepals, the female and male on different plants (the species dioecious). Fruit is a short-stalked, ellipsoid, shiny-red berry 6-10 mm long, with a single seed. The common name refers to the sweet, spicy fragrance of the stems, leaves, and fruits when bruised.

Variation within the species: Lindera benzoin var. pubescens (Palmer & Steyermark) Rehd. is the more southern form of the species, absent from the northernmost states of the species range, with twigs and lower leaf surfaces hairy (vs. glabrous in var. benzoin). Var. benzoin does not occur in the states directly bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

Two closely related species (the only other species of the genus in North America) occur in the southeastern US, where they are rare throughout their range –– Lindera melissifolia (Walt.) Blume, pondberry or southern spicebush, and Lindera subcoriacea B.E. Wofford, bog spicebush. Allozyme studies of populations of spicebush and pondberry show that both species have low levels of genetic diversity.

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Alternative names

Northern spicebush, Benjaminbush

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Spicebush is common in the southern half of Illinois, occasional in NE Illinois, and largely absent in the NW section of the state (see Distribution Map). Habitats include rich deciduous woodlands, wooded bluffs, bottomland forests along rivers, wooded slopes (usually toward the bottom), and gravelly seeps in shaded areas. While Spicebush is fairly shade-tolerant, it benefits from occasional disturbance that reduces the dense shade of some canopy trees, particularly Sugar Maple, American Beech, and similar trees.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Ont.; Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Kans., Ky., La., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Miss., Mo., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Vt., Va., W.Va.
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Spicebush occurs over all of the eastern US, from east Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas eastward to the Atlantic states as far north as Maine (and Ontario), not reported from Wisconsin. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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Adaptation

Spicebush is primarily an understory species, sometimes forming thickets, of rich, mesic sites on acidic to basic soils. Common habitats are low woods, swamp margins, and streamsides. Flowering March-April; fruits maturing August-October (-November).

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Spicebush occurs over all of the eastern US, from east Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas eastward to the Atlantic states as far north as Maine (and Ontario), not reported from Wisconsin. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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Spicebush occurs over all of the eastern US, from east Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas eastward to the Atlantic states as far north as Maine (and Ontario), not reported from Wisconsin. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Shrubs or small trees , to 5 m. Young twigs glabrous or sparsely pubescent. Leaves horizontal to ascending, strongly aromatic (spicy) throughout growing season; petiole ca. 10 mm, glabrous or pubescent. Leaf blade obovate, smaller blades generally elliptic, (4-)6-15 × 2-6 cm, membranous, base cuneate, margins ciliate, apex rounded to acuminate on larger leaves; surfaces abaxially glabrous to densely pubescent, adaxially glabrous except for a few hairs along midrib. Drupe oblong, ca. 10 mm; fruiting pedicels of previous season not persistent on stem, slender, 3-5 mm, apex not conspicuously enlarged. 2 n = 24.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Laurus benzoin Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 370. 1753; Benzoin aestivale (Linnaeus) Nees; Lindera benzoin var. pubescens (Palmer & Steyermark) Rehder
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Spicebush is common in the southern half of Illinois, occasional in NE Illinois, and largely absent in the NW section of the state (see Distribution Map). Habitats include rich deciduous woodlands, wooded bluffs, bottomland forests along rivers, wooded slopes (usually toward the bottom), and gravelly seeps in shaded areas. While Spicebush is fairly shade-tolerant, it benefits from occasional disturbance that reduces the dense shade of some canopy trees, particularly Sugar Maple, American Beech, and similar trees.
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Stream banks, low woods, margins of wetlands; uplands, especially with exposed limestone; 0-1200m.
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Dispersal

Establishment

Adaptation: Spicebush is primarily an understory species, sometimes forming thickets, of rich, mesic sites on acidic to basic soils. Common habitats are low woods, swamp margins, and streamsides. Flowering: March-April; fruits maturing August-October (-November).

General: Seeds are dispersed as animals and birds eat the fruits. Seeds germinate in the litter layer in the spring or they may remain viable in the seed bank for many years. Much of the reproduction is clonal through root sprouting.

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Establishment

Seeds are dispersed as animals and birds eat the fruits. Seeds germinate in the litter layer in the spring or they may remain viable in the seed bank for many years. Much of the reproduction is clonal through root sprouting.

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Establishment

Adaptation: Spicebush is primarily an understory species, sometimes forming thickets, of rich, mesic sites on acidic to basic soils. Common habitats are low woods, swamp margins, and streamsides. Flowering: March-April; fruits maturing August-October (-November).

General: Seeds are dispersed as the fruits are eaten by animals and birds. Seeds germinate in the litter layer in the spring or they may remain viable in the seed bank for many years. Much of the reproduction is clonal through root sprouting.

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Associations

Faunal Associations

The flowers are cross-pollinated by various insects, particularly small bees and various flies. Insects that eat the foliage of Spicebush include the caterpillars of Papilio troilus (Spicebush Swallowtail), Callosamia promethea (Promethea Moth), and Epimecis hortaria (Tulip Tree Beauty). The grubs of the long-horned beetle, Oberea ruficollis (Sassafras Borer), bore into the branches and roots of this shrub. The fruits are eaten occasionally by some upland gamebirds and several woodland songbirds (see the Bird Table for a listing of these species). These birds help to distribute the seeds to new locations.
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Flower-Visiting Insects of Spicebush in Illinois

Lindera benzoin (Spicebush)
(information is limited to Andrenid bees; insect activity is unspecified; observations are from Krombein et al.)

Bees (short-tongued)
Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena imitatrix imitatrix, Andrena nuda

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Foodplant / sap sucker
Stephanitis takeyai sucks sap of Lindera benzoin

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering spring.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Lindera benzoin

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Lindera benzoin

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: TNR - Not Yet Ranked

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: T5 - Secure

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.

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Management

Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

These plant materials are readily available from commercial sources. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

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Spicebush successfully grows and reproduces in a wide range of light conditions. Although it does grow and reproduce under completely closed canopy, openings in the canopy increase growth rate. It is considered difficult to transplant but has few serious disease problems.

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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

These plant materials are readily available from commercial sources. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

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Spicebush successfully grows and reproduces in a wide range range of light conditions. Although it does grow and reproduce under completely closed canopy, openings in the canopy increase growth rate. It is considered difficult to transplant but has few serious disease problems.

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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

These plant materials are readily available from commercial sources. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

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Spicebush successfully grows and reproduces in a wide range of light conditions. Although it does grow and reproduce under completely closed canopy, openings in the canopy increase growth rate. It is considered difficult to transplant but has few serious disease problems.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

This shrub prefers dappled sunlight to medium shade, moist to mesic conditions, and a fertile loamy soil with decaying organic matter. It is adaptable to cultivation in yards and gardens.
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Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG

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Uses

Over 20 species of birds, as well as deer, rabbits, raccoons, and opossums have been recorded as browsing the leaves or eating the fruits. The fruits are a special favorite of wood thrushes. The spicebush swallowtail, Papilio troilus (L.), lays its eggs on spicebush and other plants in the Laurel Family – sassafras, redbay, and camphortree.

There apparently are no commercial uses of spicebush, but the essential oils of leaves, twigs, and fruits have lent themselves for minor use for tea, and dried fruits have been used in fragrant sachets. Native Americans used dried fruits as a spice and the leaves for tea. Extracts have been used for drugs, including anti-arthritic, diaphoretic, emetic and herbal steam. The benzoin of drug trade is produced by species of Styrax (Styraceae).

Because of its habitat in rich woods, early land surveyors and settlers used spicebush as an indicator species for good agricultural land.

Spicebush plants make nicely shaped shrubs with deep green leaves and, if in at least partial sun, the leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. It is a good choice for plantings in shady locations but can also grow in full sun. Moist soil is best.

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Uses

Over 20 species of birds, as well as deer, rabbits, raccoons, and opossums, have been recorded as browsing the leaves or eating the fruits. The fruits are a special favorite of wood thrushes. The spicebush swallowtail, Papilio troilus (L.), lays its eggs on spicebush and other plants in the Laurel Family – sassafras, redbay, and camphortree.

There apparently are no commercial uses of spicebush, but the essential oils of leaves, twigs, and fruits have lent themselves for minor use for tea, and dried fruits have been used in fragrant sachets. Native Americans used dried fruits as a spice and the leaves for tea. Extracts have been used for drugs, including anti-arthritic, diaphoretic, emetic and herbal steam. The benzoin of drug trade is produced by species of Styrax (Styraceae).

Because of its habitat in rich woods, early land surveyors and settlers used spicebush as an indicator species for good agricultural land.

Spicebush plants make nicely shaped shrubs with deep green leaves, and if in at least partial sun, the leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. It is a good choice for plantings in shady locations but can also grow in full sun. Moist soil is best. The species is now becoming available through many commercial nurseries.

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Uses

Over 20 species of birds, as well as deer, rabbits, raccoons, and opossums have been recorded as browsing the leaves or eating the fruits. The fruits are a special favorite of wood thrushes. The spicebush swallowtail, Papilio troilus (L.), lays its eggs on spicebush and other plants in the Laurel Family – sassafras, redbay, and camphortree.

There apparently are no commercial uses of spicebush, but the essential oils of leaves, twigs, and fruits have lent themselves for minor use for tea, and dried fruits have been used in fragrant sachets. Native Americans used dried fruits as a spice and the leaves for tea. Extracts have been used for drugs, including anti-arthritic, diaphoretic, emetic and herbal steam. The benzoin of drug trade is produced by species of Styrax (Styraceae).

Because of its habitat in rich woods, early land surveyors and settlers used spicebush as an indicator species for good agricultural land.

Spicebush plants make nicely shaped shrubs with deep green leaves and, if in at least partial sun, the leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. It is a good choice for plantings in shady locations but can also grow in full sun. Moist soil is best. The species is now becoming available through many commercial nurseries.

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Wikipedia

Lindera benzoin


Lindera benzoin (wild allspice,[1] spicebush,[2] common spicebush,[3] northern spicebush[4] or Benjamin bush[2]) is a flowering plant in the family Lauraceae, native to eastern North America, ranging from New York to Ontario in the north, and to Kansas, Texas, and northern Florida in the center and south.

Characteristics[edit]

Spicebush is a medium-sized deciduous shrub growing to 5 m tall, typically found only in the understory of moist thickets. The leaves are alternate, simple, 6–15 cm long and 2–6 cm broad, oval or obovate and broadest beyond the middle of the leaf. They are very aromatic when crushed, hence the common names and the specific epithet benzoin. The flowers grow in showy yellow clusters that appear in early spring, before the leaves begin to grow. The fruit is a berrylike red drupe, rich in lipid, about 1 cm long and is highly prized by birds. It has a "turpentine-like" taste and aromatic scent, and contains a large seed. Spicebush is dioecious (plants are either male or female), so that both sexes are needed in the garden if one wants berries with viable seed. The leaves, buds, and new growth twigs can also be made into a tea.


L. benzoin showing berries and leaves

Spicebush is a favorite food plant of two lepidopterous insects: the spicebush swallowtail Papilio troilus, and the promethea silkmoth, Callosamia promethea. The larvae of the spicebush swallowtail are easily found inside leaves that have been folded over by the application of silk; small larvae are brown, resembling bird droppings, and mature larvae are green, with eyespots resembling the head of a snake. Since several broods (generations) of spicebush swallowtails typically occur each year, spicebush is a useful plant for the butterfly garden, since the egg-laying females are strongly attracted to it. Promethea moth cocoons, if present, can be found in the winter, resembling dead leaves still hanging from the twigs. Neither of these insects is ever present in sufficient quantities to defoliate a spicebush of medium to large size, although very small specimens may suffer even from a single caterpillar.

A young bush

Related or potentially confused species[edit]

Other species in the Lindera genus also have common names containing the word "spicebush". Calycanthus (sweetshrub, spicebush) is in a different family within the Laurales.

References[edit]

  1. ^ USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN - Online Database). National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. (24 July 2013)
  2. ^ a b Flora of North America: Lindera benzoin
  3. ^ Peterson, Lee Allen (1977). Edible Wild Plants. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 208. 
  4. ^ Lindera benzoin at USDA PLANTS
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Notes

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The flowers of Lindera benzoin have an unusually sweet fragrance. 

 Among the Cherokee, Creek, Iroquois, and Rappahannock tribes, Lindera benzoin was used for various medicinal purposes (D. E. Moerman 1986).

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