Comprehensive Description

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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.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers


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