Spicebushes at the Scott Arboretum

Spicebushes at the Scott Arboretum

Throughout the Crum Woods that surrounds the campus is the native spicebush, Lindera benzoin. In very early spring the naked branches are covered with attractive, tiny, yellow flowers. Most spice bushes have chemicals in the stems and leaves which give them a spicy fragrance and make them unattractive to deer. In addition to the flowers, it is perhaps the fall color that makes the spicebushes most attractive.

Lindera obtusiloba, Oriental spicebush has incredible, vibrant golden-yellow fall color. At maturity this shrub can reach twelve feet tall with an equal spread. The leaves are similar in shape to those of our native sassafras, Sassafras albidum, in that there are three leaf types: entire, mitten-shaped, and three lobed. There is a wonderful multi-stemmed specimen growing in the Terry Shane Teaching Garden. It creates an umbrella-like effect over a bench in the garden.

Lindera glauca var. salicifolia, pale spicebush, is simply one of the very best shrubs for fall color in this area. The narrow leaves change from yellow to pumpkin orange and fade to beige and then tawny for most of the winter. Like Lindera obtusiloba it can get sizeable over time. We have used it in several locations on campus including the Scott Map Building and in Hicks Parking Lot where it was under-planted with Hakonechloa macra. Most recently it was added to our Gold Medal Garden around Kemp Hall. This spicebush received the Gold Medal in 2008 from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for its outstanding merit as a woody landscape plant.

The latest addition to our collection of Lindera is L. reflexa, a native to temperate parts of China. The bold leaves turn a beautiful orange fall color. There is a young specimen planted to the west side of Mertz Dormitory.

This relatively unknown genus has a host of extremely ornamental plants, especially in the fall. We have added others to our collections including Lindera erythrocarpa (Lang Music Building) and the evergreen, Lindera strychnifolia (being grown on in our nursery). We also plan to add other species for evaluation as they become available in nurseries.

Stop by the Scott Arboretum this fall to see which Lindera you might like to add to your garden.

Andrew Bunting
  • Andrew Bunting
    Posted at 14:19h, 19 November Reply

    I have had some inquiries regarding invasiveness. We have several fruiting specimens of Lindera glauca var. salicifolia and have never noticed a seedling. I have heard from others who grow Lindera obtusiloba that if you have multiple plants of male and female plants that seeding from them can be a problem. So, if you would like to grow L. obtusiloba I would suggest just growing an individual plant.


  • EA
    Posted at 13:00h, 09 September Reply

    Permission requested to use the lindera picture in an article about autumn foliage in a magazine for horticulture professionals (landscapers, architects, nursery…) with proper credit added.
    The magazine is upon subscription only, published at 5000 copies 8 times a year, in french, in Quebec (Canada). The magazine doesn’t have a website, but a single page at http://www.quebecvert.com.
    The picture would be 1,5 inch X 1,5 inch among 10 other colorful shrubs and trees featured in a 4 pages article.

    We would need an answer before September 11th, 2009.
    Best regards

    Emmanuelle Ares, editor-in-chief

  • Chloe Pitard
    Posted at 15:55h, 30 October Reply

    What would you suggest as the best way to propogate L. glauce var. salicifolia? I want several plants.

  • Andrew Bunting
    Posted at 09:09h, 04 November Reply


    Probably the best way to try to propagate many plants is from seed. Cold stratification of 3 months would be best. Therefore you could collect the seeds now. Sow them in a flat that is kept outdoors for the winter. Cover it to keep squirrels, etc. out of it, and then you should get reasonable germination in the spring. Also, cuttings taken in mid-June with a fairly strong hormone with mist should result in 50% rooting.

    Andrew Bunting, Curator

  • Andrew Bunting
    Posted at 09:12h, 04 November Reply

    To follow-up on the potential invasiveness of this plant, I have spoken to a fellow horticulturist in Pennsylvania and then have noticed seedlings coming up under their L. salicifolia var. glauca after several years. If you could find all male plants this would be the best approach.

    Andrew Bunting, Curator

  • April Clarke
    Posted at 22:06h, 16 December Reply

    Mr Bunting,
    I am interested in propagating Lindera glauca salicifolia ,
    your info is very helpful. I have not grown trees from seed before. I recently aquired this plant not sure of the age, pot grown 4′ now.
    I do not see seeds on the plant, maybe next year after being in the ground a year ? Is it possible to get seeds from you? I have wanted to visit the Arboretum and could make the trip.
    April Clarke
    Hatfield PA

  • Andrew Bunting
    Posted at 14:15h, 20 December Reply


    We could either send you seed or you could collect it yourself. Email me at abuntin1@swarthmore.edu to make arrangements.

    Andrew Bunting, Curator

  • stephen bulman
    Posted at 11:42h, 11 November Reply

    Dear Sir/Madame
    Please can you advice me where I can obtain seeds of
    lindera. I would to grow them in England.
    Regards Stephen

  • Lisa Papile
    Posted at 11:44h, 25 July Reply

    We have a client interested in the Lindera glauca var. salicifolia.
    We do have a wholesale nursery and would be interested in purchasing a few liners from you.
    Can you let me know if you have any material for sale.
    Lisa Papile
    Ogden’s Design and Plantings
    650 North Country Road
    St. James, NY 11780

  • Andrew Bunting
    Posted at 10:30h, 29 July Reply

    We do not sell liners but can provide seed to nurseries or individuals in the U. S.

    Andrew Bunting, Curator

  • Cherie
    Posted at 09:27h, 17 May Reply

    I am from southeast Kansas zone 6 have been looking for and trying to purchase the Spicebush, Botanical Name: Lindera glauca var. salicifolia. If unable to buy would I be able to purchase some seeds. Thankyou so much, cherie

  • Paula
    Posted at 07:20h, 06 August Reply

    I grow it and have tons of seeds every year. I’d be glad to send you some. I’m in southeast PA, 30 miles west of Philly. Email me.

    • Becky Robert
      Posted at 07:21h, 06 August Reply

      Thank you for sharing, Paula.

      Becky Robert
      PR and Volunteer Programs Coordinator

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