Monday, March 9, 2009


Ken in Philadelphia posted a nice comment here yesterday. He found the blog because spicebush is one of his favorite woodland shrubs. This prompted me to write about why the name - Spicebush Log. I learned to identify and smell Northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin) from my father, as spicebush is also one of his favorites and it grows in the understory of our family land in western Massachusetts. I grew up there, playing in the woods, fields, swamps, and hills, and return there regularly to visit my parents and wander the same lands.

Spicebush grows in the understory in the moist woods behind the saltbox, built in the 1700s. As the land drops away to the north, our winding woodland path leads through a forest of red and sugar maples. Our path was chosen, in part, to take us by a few of the native spicebush, that grow to about 8 to 10 feet tall, their graceful, slender branches arch over the trail. A few branches are low enough that as we pass by we pick and crush a few leaves, absorbing the spicy fragrance that gives the plant its name.

The small, yellow flowers will appear soon, before the leaves emerge. Some call it the "forsythia of the wilds." As spring gets underway, the skunk cabbage will poke through in the stream and the cinnamon, interrupted and sensitive ferns will send forth their fiddleheads. By mid-summer when the spicebush is clothed in its dark green leaves gracing the midstory of our woodland, the forest floor will be blanketed in tall ferns, and the ovenbird and red-eyed vireo will sing overhead.The Spicebush Log, also a reference to the life within a fallen log, chronicles the daily sightings, seasonal changes, and other happenings in places that I live and visit.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it a wonderful smell? I just can't resist crushing a leaf and breathing the fragrance.

    I hope your readers will enjoy your explanation.