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Calycanthus occidentalis

About Spice Bush (Calycanthus occidentalis) Spice Bush (Calycanthus occidentalis) is a native shrub that grows in canyons, streamsides and moist places, at elevations from 0 - 5000 feet in the California Coast Ranges, Sacramento Valley, Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges. Also found in Washington state, localized in the Seattle area

It is a deciduous shrub growing 1-4 metres (3.3 - 13.1 ft) tall and wide. The bright green leaves are opposite, 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. 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. 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. The fruit is an elliptic dry capsule 5 - 7 cm long, containing numerous seeds.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
3 - 13.1 ft (0.9 - 4 m)

Max. Width
3 - 12 ft (0.9 - 3.7 m)


Fragrant - Pleasant

Winter Deciduous

Bright green leaves, 5-15 centimetres (2.0-5.9 in) long and 2-6 centimetres (0.79-2.36 in) broad.

Flower Color
Red, Purple, Brown

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Moist places, canyons, streamsides

Part Shade, Sun

Elevation ?
7' - 11310'

Annual Precip. ?
8.3" - 85.5"

Summer Precip. ?
0.18" - 2.08"

Coldest Month ?
24.0° F - 50.6° F

Hottest Month ?
45.3° F - 78.0° F

Humidity ?
0.21 vpd - 26.55 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a white variety of soils

Soil Texture
Clay, Clay Loam, Loam, Loamy Sand, Sand, Sandy Clay, Sandy Clay Loam, Sandy Loam, Silt, Silt Clay Loam, Silt Loam, Silty Clay

Soil PH
5 - 8


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 0 - 10° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 3, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Wildlife Attracted
Sap beetles

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Low, Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
2x/month, 3x/month, 1/week
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Inorganic, Organic with Rocks

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: 3 mos. stratification.

Common uses
Hedges, Deer Resistant, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Spicebush, Sweet-shrub, Western Sweetshrub

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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