Spicebushes at the Scott Arboretum
Throughout the Crum Woods that surrounds the campus is the native spicebush, Lindera benzoin. In very early spring the naked branches are covered with attractive, tiny, yellow flowers. Most spice bushes have chemicals in the stems and leaves which give them a spicy fragrance and make them unattractive to deer. In addition to the flowers, it is perhaps the fall color that makes the spicebushes most attractive.
Lindera obtusiloba, Oriental spicebush has incredible, vibrant golden-yellow fall color. At maturity this shrub can reach twelve feet tall with an equal spread. The leaves are similar in shape to those of our native sassafras, Sassafras albidum, in that there are three leaf types: entire, mitten-shaped, and three lobed. There is a wonderful multi-stemmed specimen growing in the Terry Shane Teaching Garden. It creates an umbrella-like effect over a bench in the garden.
Lindera glauca var. salicifolia, pale spicebush, is simply one of the very best shrubs for fall color in this area. The narrow leaves change from yellow to pumpkin orange and fade to beige and then tawny for most of the winter. Like Lindera obtusiloba it can get sizeable over time. We have used it in several locations on campus including the Scott Map Building and in Hicks Parking Lot where it was under-planted with Hakonechloa macra. Most recently it was added to our Gold Medal Garden around Kemp Hall. This spicebush received the Gold Medal in 2008 from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for its outstanding merit as a woody landscape plant.
The latest addition to our collection of Lindera is L. reflexa, a native to temperate parts of China. The bold leaves turn a beautiful orange fall color. There is a young specimen planted to the west side of Mertz Dormitory.
This relatively unknown genus has a host of extremely ornamental plants, especially in the fall. We have added others to our collections including Lindera erythrocarpa (Lang Music Building) and the evergreen, Lindera strychnifolia (being grown on in our nursery). We also plan to add other species for evaluation as they become available in nurseries.
Stop by the Scott Arboretum this fall to see which Lindera you might like to add to your garden.