A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Lindera obtusiloba (Japanese Spicebush)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter. 

The Japanese spicebush (Lindera obtusiloba) is a lovely, small tree for a shady garden area. Blooming early in spring, with beautiful summer foliage and great fall color, it is attractive all year.


Its bright-yellow flowers may be tiny but they are held in clusters on the bare branches, and so they show up very well.close-up


Our handsome young tree in the Shade Border is in full bloom this week.setting-looking-W

setting-looking-w-2The leaves, which will unfurl later in spring, have three lobes and look as if they could belong to a sassafras tree. In autumn, they turn a magnificent yellow-gold.


There are several species of spicebush (Lindera spp.), mostly from eastern Asia, but there are some that are native to North America. They are small trees or large shrubs, usually occurring as understory plants—hence their preference for shady conditions.


They all give off a spicy aroma when the leaves and stems are rubbed, and it is recorded that Lindera benzoin, a spicebush found in the wild in much of eastern North America, was once used by early settlers as a flavoring for food, presumably when imported spices were hard to come by.

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