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May Flora Spotlight:
Sweet Shrub

Sweet Shrub 
Calycanthus floridus


Commonly called Sweet Shrub, Carolina Allspice and Sweet Betsy, this uncommon shrub has distinctive, fragrant flowers, spicy-smelling leaves (when crushed), and oddly-shaped fruit. The flowers are especially fragrant in the evening. On a nature hike when I first moved here over 12 years ago, the leader told the story of how it also came to be called Sweet Bubby. Two centuries ago when women did not bathe as often as we do today they would put the flowers near their bosom area to smell nice for their men folk. 

Sweet Shrub is easy to grow in average soil, is essentially pest-free and turns bright yellow in autumn. This deciduous shrub thrives in medium shade to bright sun. It prefers moist soils but can survive periods of drought if necessary. To keep the size compact, prune after flowering.

Sweet Shrub produces suckers that can be easily dug and planted in a new location - at just about any time of the year provided the transplants are kept moist. 

Use Sweet Shrub in natural areas and woodland gardens where it can sucker freely and assume its natural habit. Sweet Shrub is also nice in planters near entryways and patios where its delicate fragrance can be enjoyed.

The Native Americans used the leaves, twigs and buds as a diaphoretic. Also the root and bark was dried and used as a substitute for cinnamon. 

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