Have you been near the woods, a stream, lake or creek lately or sometime in early Spring? If the deciduous trees didn’t have leaves yet and the days were starting to warm up, say in late March or early April, you may have seen the yellow-flowering Spicebush.
Common Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, is a little tree or understory tree or shrub that is native to the Eastern United States. It’s named for the scent that young leaves and twigs give off when broken.
The leaves of spicebush don’t come out until after it’s done blooming, so we can’t use the foliage to identify this shrub at this time of year.
The scent of the twigs or leaf buds can tell an experienced nose that a particular shrub is spicebush, but if you’ve never smelled that spicy scent before how would you know? Words could never do the scent justice, but it is a spicy one. The first thing that A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs tells us about recognizing spicebush is that it’s “a spicy-scented shrub.”
Common Spicebush shrubs can be seen flowering from March to May depending on location. It’s still blooming around south-central Pennsylvania.