From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Calycanthus floridus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Laurales
Family: Calycanthaceae
Genus: Calycanthus

C. floridus
C. occidentalis

Calycanthus (sweetshrub)[1][2] 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.


Calycanthus plants are deciduous shrubs, growing 1–4 metres (3.3–13.1 ft) tall and wide. The bright green leaves are opposite, entire, 5–15 centimetres (2.0–5.9 in) long and 2–6 centimetres (0.79–2.36 in) broad.

The bark has a strong camphor smell that is released when stems are scraped.[3] The smell remains strong on twigs that have been stored several years in a dry environment.

The strongly scented flowers are produced from late spring through early autumn for Calycanthus occidentalis, and April to July for Calycanthus floridus.[4] They are 4–7 centimetres (1.6–2.8 in) broad, with numerous dark red to burgundy to purplish brown tepals. Typical of the Calycanthaceae family, the flowers lack distinct sepals and petals, but instead have distinct spirals of tepals.

The lotus-shaped flowers can resemble a small magnolia flower. They are pollinated by beetles in the Nitidulidae family.[5]

The fruit is an elliptic dry capsule 5–7 cm long, containing numerous seeds.


  • Sinocalycanthus chinensis (Calycanthus sinensis)—Chinese sweetshrub, Chinese wax shrub. Native to eastern China, with white flowers. First described in 1963 as Calycanthus chinensis. Sinocalycanthus is a monotypic genus in the family Calycanthaceae.[11]


Medicinal plant[edit]

Both species of Calycanthus were used as a traditional medicinal plant by Native Americans. The indigenous peoples of California also used Calycanthus occidentalis in basket weaving and for arrow shafts.[12] [13]


Both Calycanthus species are cultivated as ornamental plants by plant nurseries, including in the United States and England.

Calycanthus occidentalis is planted in traditional, native plant, and wildlife gardens, and for natural landscaping and habitat restoration projects, primarily in California and the Western United States.[4][5][14][15] It was introduced into cultivation in 1831.[4]

Calycanthus floridus is also planted in gardens, as a specimen shrub or for hedges.[16][17]

It was noted by Mark Catesby in the Piedmont woodlands of the British Province of Carolina in 1732. He described it, with its bark "as odoriferous as cinnamon", but did not name it.[18] The colonial planters of the Carolinas transplanted it into their gardens, and the botanist Peter Collinson described it to Linnaeus and imported it into England from Charleston in the Province of South Carolina around 1756.[19]

Essential oils[edit]

Calycanthus oil, distilled from the flowers, is an essential oil used in some quality perfumes.[20] The flowers of Calycanthus occidentalis have a spicy sweet scent. The flowers of Calycanthus floridus were compared to a bubble gum scent by one reference.[21]


  1. ^ Flora of North America: Calycanthus
  2. ^ USDA Plants Profile: Calycanthus
  3. ^ Calycanthus floridus. from Plants for a Future
  4. ^ a b c Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Information Network-NPIN: Calycanthus occidentalis (Western spicebush)
  5. ^ a b Las Pilitas Horticulture database: Spice Bush−Calycanthus occidentalis
  6. ^ USDA: Calycanthus floridus distribution map
  7. ^ USDA: Calycanthus floridus var. floridus
  8. ^ USDA: Calycanthus floridus var. glaucus
  9. ^ Jepson Manual (TJM93) treatment of Calycanthus occidentalis
  10. ^ a b USDA Calycanthus occidentalis distribution map
  11. ^ Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University: "Presenting Sinocalycanthus chinensis-Chinese Wax Shrub; Gerald B. Straley, 2014.
  12. ^ University of Michigan at Dearborn, Native American Ethnobotany database: Calycanthus floridus (California spicebush)
  13. ^ University of Michigan at Dearborn, Native American Ethnobotany database: Calycanthus occidentalis (Carolina allspice)
  14. ^ Theodore Payne Foundation, California Native Plant Horticulture database: Calycanthus occidentalis - Spice Bush
  15. ^ Missouri Botanical Garden, Garden Help: Calycanthus occidentalis
  16. ^ Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Information Network-NPIN: Calycanthus floridus (Eastern spicebush)
  17. ^ Missouri Botanical Garden, Garden Help: Calycanthus floridus
  18. ^ Catesby, The Natural History of Carolina (1732).
  19. ^ Coats (1964) 1992.
  20. ^ Groom, N. The New Perfume Handbook, second ed., Springer, 1997, page 48.
  21. ^ iVillage Garden Web: "Which shrubs smell good list"

External links[edit]