- Author: Robert J Keiffer
With a little bit of luck and know-how at the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center one can locate certain showy-but-secretive maroon blooms tucked away in shady ravines. The Spicebush, or Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus occidentalis) is a native plant that is endemic to California. The genus Calycanthus is in the family Calycanthaceae which is endemic to North America, and has been used in the horticulture industry for over 100 years.
These deciduous shrubs can be found along streamsides, shady wet ravines, and nearby to spring-seeps. The maroon-colored flowers are produced in early summer and can have a smell similar to bubblegum. However, the name Spicebush comes from the strong camphor smell that is released when the stems are scraped or crushed. This smell can remain for years on twigs that are stored in a dry environment.