Calycanthus (sweetshrub) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Calycanthaceae, endemic to North America. The genus includes two to four species depending on taxonomic interpretation; two are accepted by the Flora of North America.
They are deciduous shrubs growing to 2-4 m tall. The leaves are opposite, entire, 5-15 cm long and 2-6 cm broad. The flowers are produced in early summer after the leaves, 4-7 cm broad, with numerous spirally arranged, narrow, dark red tepals (resembling a small magnolia flower); they are strongly scented. The fruit is an elliptic dry capsule 5-7 cm long, containing numerous seeds.
The bark has a strong camphor smell that is released when stems are scraped. The smell remains strong on twigs that have been stored several years in a dry environment. The scent of the flower has been compared to bubble gum. Calycanthus oil, distilled from the flowers, is an essential oil used in some quality perfumes.
- Calycanthus floridus (Carolina sweetshrub), Pennsylvania and Ohio south to Mississippi and northern Florida
- C. f. var. floridus (syn. C. mohrii), twigs pubescent (hairy)
- C. f. var. glaucus (syn. C. fertilis), twigs glabrous (smooth)
- C. occidentalis (California spicebush), California (widespread), and Washington (localized Seattle area).
The oldest known member of the genus that has found its way into gardens, C. floridus, was noted by Mark Catesby (1732) in the woodlands of Piedmont Carolina; he described it, with its bark, "as odoriferous as cinnamon", but did not name it. The planters of Carolina gathered it into their gardens, and Peter Collinson imported it into England from Charleston, South Carolina about 1756; he described it to Linnaeus. As the leathery, maroon flowers are not very showy, the shrub is thought to be "of minor garden value today", where scent is less valued than color, though it is an old-fashioned sentimental favorite in the American Southeast, where it is native.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Calycanthus.|
- Flora of North America: Calycanthus
- USDA Plants Profile: Calycanthus
- Calycanthus floridus. from Plants for a Future
- Which shrubs smell good. from iVillage Garden Web
- Groom, N. The New Perfume Handbook, second ed., Springer, 1997, page 48.
- Calycanthus occidentalis. The Jepson eFlora 2013.
- Catesby, The Natural History of Carolina (1732).
- Coats (1964) 1992.
- John L. Creech, note in Coats 1992.