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“Photo by Greg Hume”

Are your gardens as busy as mine? Plants are actively flowering, birds are busy feeding their young, and bees are buzzing around pollinating our plants. What a great time of year! I am always inspired by how our gardens can be so important to others, as well.

Over the next few weeks I will be highlighting some of my favorite plants that are also favorites of wildlife.

Lindera benzoin (Northern Spicebush)

This native shrub grows in moist woods and marsh edges and is a great addition to a woodland or rain garden and along stream or pond edges. Spicebush is tough enough to tolerate a wide range of conditions; sand to clay soils, sun to shade, and wet to dry. At maturity, it can reach 6 to 8 feet tall.

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Male and female flowers are on separate plants (dioecious), with the male flowers being larger and showier than the female ones. These fragrant, yellow flowers bloom along stems in early spring before leaves emerge. Leaves are fragrant when crushed, which gives spicebush its common name. In fall, foliage turns yellow with female plants developing attractive but sometimes hidden red berries.

This plant, as a host plant, is important to caterpillars in the swallowtail family, especially the Spicebush Swallowtail and the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. The fruit is a favorite food of birds, including American Robin, Northern Bobwhite, Gray Catbird, Eastern Kingbird, and Great Crested Flycatcher. People have used this plant as well, making tea from the leaves and grinding the berries into a powder, making a spice.

Stop in and ask about other plants you can use to attract wildlife. And, as always…

Happy gardening!