Everybody has a Story + Spicebush

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Excerpt from my love letter to Spicebush:

Lindera benzoin

Dear Spicebush,

I follow the path to the creek or the seepy wood’s edge, and you’re there. Gray and indiscreet, easy to walk past unless you are fruiting or in flower. But from all these years of meeting up with you, I can spot you from a distance any time of year and am fed by this feeling of “Home.” No hands that I know of planted you here, you came before the people. This is your native range, the eastern seaboard of North America, a native spice and medicine, food for wildlife and host plant for both the Spicebush and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars. 

Most of the plants I use culinarily and medicinally come from the place of my ancestral origin- Europe. But not you, you come from here, with your aromatic parts and showy females with their red drupe fruits, and you teach me what it means to have a sense of place. Thank you, Spicebush. I can’t recall our first meeting, only that in the beginning you looked like every other gray-barked shrub when I wasn’t able to tell the forest from the trees. But in time, your character became known to me, in all its unique parts.

What a distinct oval leaf you have, dark green and shiny on top, more dull and pale underneath. Your smooth bark is sometimes spotted with lenticels. There are other shrubs in the woods who fruit red, but your berries are spread out and more oblong than most. Once your leaves have turned yellow and fallen, your buds for next year’s flowers appear. I love this characteristic you have! Holding on to flower buds all winter long, now that’s a feat! And then, around spring equinox, you burst into tiny yellow star flowers, turning the understory into a magical place………..