Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus) is an perfect example of everything there is to love about growing North American native plants in our beautiful wildlife garden: A beneficial cover and food source for wildlife, seasonal interest, unique flowers and fruits, delightfully fragrant leaves and twigs, and easily adaptable to a range of light, soil and water conditions!
Though Carolina Allspice is native along the eastern United States from Florida to New York and as far west as Mississippi, it grows particularly well in the southeastern coastal regions, hence the ‘Carolina’ moniker. (Calycanthus floridus is also known by a bevy of other common names including sweet shrub, strawberry shrub, bubby bush, sweet Betsey and spicebush.) It’s hardy in zones 4-9 and grows contentedly in full sun to full shade, being less robust in shady areas. Fuss-free, Carolina Allspice prefers damp feet but adapts easily to dry soils and is drought tolerant once established.
Carolina Allspice spreads by suckers to form a rounded multi-stemmed shrub 3′-9′ tall and 6′-12′ wide at maturity with large green leaves that turn yellow in fall. (It is a bit slower growing in well-drained soils.) Each spring it is adorned with sweetly scented, deep maroon flowers resembling miniature magnolia blossoms. The sweet fragrance attracts a host of insects which are eagerly snatched up by a variety of hungry birds hiding among the branches. The fruits (only occasionally seen on our shrub) are drooping, brown, wrinkled and full of seeds.
The twigs and bark of Carolina Allspice are also fragrant, releasing a scent of camphor when broken. Though pruning isn’t necessary, the shrub may be cut back after flowering to maintain a desired height and shape. Collect the pruned twigs to dry completely in a shaded area and they’ll remain scented… a wonderful bonus for using in wildflower arranging and potpourri!
Carolina Allspice , another amazing native shrub in our beautiful wildlife garden!
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