The Spice Bush

On a forest walk down in Owl Valley, a friend handed me a leaf.  \”Smell it.\” he said. So I smelled it and then broke the crisp epidermis.  A sweet smell like a mix of citronella and roses wafted out.  \”spicebush.\” I said and smiled.  I had only recently been told a story about a spicebush and never noticed one before.  Now, the story I had heard and this visceral experience connected the tale with reality.



Lindera benzoin is a native plant in Pennsylvania. It\’s part of the shrub or brush layer in a forest.  You can make teas by infusing the leaves and twigs and you can eat the berries fresh. Extracts have shown anti-fungal and anti-bacterial effects.


The spicebush enjoys moist to wet soil conditions and thrives in the shade.  It provides a place for wildlife and even has it\’s own \”spicebush swallow\” in certain regions.  A brief internet search shows it\’s used in rain gardens, native gardens, and riparian corridors.

My inspiration for writing this article was observation. In fact, I had seen the spicebush before.  Upon arriving at my wife\’s mother\’s home in a forested creek-side area this October, I approached a shrub and plucked a leaf.  \”Spicebush?\” I thought as I cracked the leaf testing my suspicion.  \”Spicebush!\” i was so excitedly confirmed as I breathed the scent in deeply.  I further observed the twigs, the emerging fruit and looked around wondrously to witness hundreds upon thousands of spicebushes.  Their leaves were yellow on this October day and it made me feel that the forest was alive and healthy.

On the same walk, I observed tulip poplar seedlings, mullein and jewelweed. Unfortunately, the tasty jewelweed seeds were already dispersed.  The mullein was something I had never remembered seeing before and felt as if it was unique enough for me to remember.  Was I simply not observing or was it not there? It\’s hard to say.

When walking about or simply living life, are you observing? What are you observing?  Are you observing your children\’s intricacies and development?  Their patterns? Are you observing your friends level of stress or harmony?  Are you observing the environment around you for safety, for care?  It doesn\’t take much more energy to be aware and to observe so let\’s try to be more observant.




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