Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a very common shrub in wooded areas of Beverly Shores. If you walk along East State Park Road just north of the Calumet Trail, you will find it in great profusion. You will also find abundant spicebush alongside most trails in the Indiana Dunes State Park. The most striking feature of spicebush is its bright red berries that appear in late summer and fall. It also has slightly elongate, two to five inch leaves, that turn bright yellow in fall, yellow flowers in early spring, and, best of all, a spicy fragrance in the crushed leaves, stems, and berries. The beautiful spicebush swallowtail butterfly, a common Beverly Shores resident, also depends on spicebush for its caterpillars.
Spicebush grows best in partial sun to light shade but can tolerate full sun to nearly full shade. Best fruit production occurs with with more sun. Plant it in moist to moderately dry soil. Spicebush, like winterberry, has male and female plants so you must plant at least one male plant for every few female plants in order for berries to appear. You will either have to have your supplier tell you the sex of the plants or do mass plantings to be sure to get both sexes (or with luck you will have some male plants growing on or near your property). Spicebush can reach a height of 6 to 12 feet. Spicebush does not transplant well because of its fibrous roots so it is best to start with bare root or potted plants (or even seeds, if you are very patient).
The bright red fruits ripen from July through October on female plants and are most showy once the foliage falls off. Because of the high fat content in the berries, birds may quickly eat them up. Spicebush can be purchased from native plant purveyors and locally, at Cardno’s native plant nursery in Walkerton, Indiana (they can also be mailed ordered from Cardno) and from Naturally Native Nursery in South Bend.
If you have questions about spicebush or other native or non-native plants, don’t hesitate to contact Terry Bonace (firstname.lastname@example.org), Candice Smith (email@example.com), or Bill Schaudt (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance. Also please explore our website, www.bserg.org, for further information on invasive plants and native replacements.