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Good for wildlife
Although human uses of spicebush have largely been left behind, that’s not the case with other animals. For example, squirrels and birds, such as the robin, Northern bobwhite quail, gray catbird, Eastern kingbird and the great crested flycatcher, savor the ripe berries in autumn. Spicebush swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on the plant’s leaves, which the caterpillars then feed upon once hatched. These caterpillars have a scent gland that releases a strong, concentrated spicebush odor when danger is near.
Interestingly, this shrub is not a favored food of deer, which makes spicebush a good garden choice where deer are problematic.
Easy to like
American spicebush is an easy shrub to grow and is well-suited to those shady, wet areas where other, more traditional landscape shrubs often fail. It’s perfect for a natural setting or for use in a riparian buffer zone, which is a planted margin between the lawn and waterways that helps keep fertilizers and pesticides out of streams, rivers and lakes. Spicebush will also perform well in full sun if the soil is constantly moist. Heavy mulching under those conditions is a must.
Lindera benzoin has all the properties that make it a great home landscape addition: it’s a native, it is easy to grow, and it takes little care to flourish given the right conditions. American spicebush has early spring flowers, which are most welcome after the long winter, and it puts on a beautiful autumn display with its yellow leaves and red berries. It attracts wildlife. All this, and it comes with a spicy slice of American history.
Next time you are looking for something new for the landscape, why not consider spicing up your garden with American spicebush and your morning with a cup of spicebush tea?
Residing along the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, Cindy Murphy is an Advanced Master Gardener and Michigan Certified Nurseryman at a large garden center. After a busy day at the nursery, she doesn’t mind bringing home work ... as it always finds a home in her gardens.
This recipe is a version of the “spring tonic” used by early American settlers. Considered medicinal, it’s also quite delicious. The twigs should be gathered in spring when the sap is at its highest concentration.
Enough spicebush twigs, striped of leaves and broken into lengths of approximately 5 inches, to fill a 3-quart pan
2½ quarts water
2 tablespoons honey
Fill pan with twigs and water, and bring to a boil, uncovered. After about 25-30 minutes, water should be slightly yellow. Strain tea through colander into gallon container. Stir in honey. Tea will keep in refrigerator for a week. It should be served hot – microwaving is fine. Enjoy!
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