Lindera benzoin, spicebush

This native shrub or small tree is quite beautiful but it's also rather understated and often goes unnoticed for much of the year. It blooms in early spring, before the leaves come out, and sometimes people call it wild forsythia. It isn't related to forsythia though.  Rather, it is related to things like cinnamon and bay laurel. So it should be no surprise that the stems and leaves of spicebush are what gives it the name.

Try it; scratch the stem a bit and then smell your fingers.

Spicebush plants can be either male or female, so while they both bloom, only the females will produce the red fruits.. Lots of birds eat the fruits, including wood thrush and robins. 

Spicebush is also the larval host for a couple of wonderful butterflies; the  spicebush swallowtail (pictured at the left) and the eastern tiger swallowtail.  

Woodland managers may be a little ambivalent about spicebush. On one hand, it is one that we can grow in the woodland areas because deer usually leave it alone. On the other hand, because deer won't eat it, it can tend to dominate. Along the trail we have many invasive shrubs such as honeysuckle that are quite dominant, so we are happy to see spicebush!