Spicebush is a multistemmed deciduous shrub that grows to a height of one to three meters. Young stems are delicate and may be smooth or finely hairy. Leaves are alternate and simple, with an elliptic to obovate blade that tapers at both the base and apex and is bounded by a smooth margin. Examined closely, the margin will reveal a series of fine hairs that project directly out from the leaf edge. In size, leaves are neither remarkably large nor small; they range from one to six inches in length and up to about two and a half inches wide, the widest point somewhat above the middle of the blade. Overall, leaves offer few distinctive features for easy visual recognition. However, as the common name implies, a pleasant fragrance emanating from crushed stems or leaves provides a reliable cue for identification of this common but easily overlooked plant.

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Copyright © 2006, Virginia Native Plant Society. This article first appeared in Virginia Native Plant Society Brochure (2006), 1-2.

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