Synonyms : C. sterilis.
Habitat : Calycanthus floridus is native to the moist woodlands of the southeastern United States. Its range extends from Virginia, south to Florida, and west to Mississippi. Sweetshrub is enjoyed as a landscape plant in Europe and deserves more attention from U.S. gardeners.
Calycanthus 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 beautiful deciduous shrubs slowly 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.
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As the sweetshrub suckers vigorously the mounds increase in width to eventually form a thicket if not constrained. Sweetshrub has many common names, all alluding to the aromatic properties of its leaves, bark, twigs and roots. Best of all is the wonderfully fruity scent produced by the unusual flowers. Rusty red to brown, the 1-2 inch blossoms appear in quantities during the spring and intermittently thereafter throughout the summer. The leaves are oblong, 4 in (10.2 cm) long by 2 in (5.1 cm) wide, and are arranged oppositely along the length of the stems. They are rich deep green with lighter green underneath. Soft and fuzzy to the touch, they turn bright golden yellow in autumn….…CLICK & SEE
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 bubblegum. 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
*Calycanthus floridus var. floridus (syn. C. mohrii), twigs pubescent (hairy)
*Calycanthus floridus var. glaucus (syn. C. fertilis), twigs glabrous (smooth)
*Calycanthus occidentalis (California sweetshrub), California (widespread), Washington (local, Seattle area).
Sweetshrub is easy to grow in average soil, is easy to care for and is essentially pest-free!
Light: Thrives in medium shade to bright sun.
Moisture: Likes moist soils. Water when dry. This shrub can survive periods of drought if necessary.
Propagate by seeds, layers, and divisions. This shrub produces suckers in profusion. These can be easily dug and planted in a new location – at just about any time of the year provided the transplants are kept moist.
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Edible Uses: The aromatic bark is dried and used as a substitute for cinnamon. Some caution is advised, see reports above on toxicity.
Cherokee tribes brewed the roots and bark as teas to soothe a variety of ills, and European settlers later drank similar teas to soothe jangled nerves. The plant contains an alkaloid that has a powerfully depressant action on the heart. A fluid extract has been used as an antiperiodic. A tea made from the root or bark has been used as a strong emetic and diuretic for kidney and bladder ailments. A cold tea has been used as eye drops in the treatment of failing eyesight. An ooze from the bark has been used to treat children’s sores, whilst an infusion has been used to treat hives.
The only member of the genus that has found its way into gardens is the oldest known, C. florida, which Mark Catesby noted 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.
Sweetshrub in natural areas and woodland gardens where it can sucker freely and assume its natural habit. Sweetshrub is also nice in planters near entryways and patios where it’s delicate fragrance can be enjoyed.
Known Hazards: Ruminants are reported to have a toxic reaction from grazing this plant. Calycanthus contains calycanthine, an alkaloid similar to strychnine, and it is toxic to humans and livestock
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
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