Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) has many common names, including Carolina allspice, strawberry-bush, sweet bubby, sweet Betsy and spicebush. As these names indicate, it is valued for the sweet, often fruity fragrance of its flowers. Sweetshrub is native along the east coast from Pennsylvania south to northern Florida and west to Mississippi. In South Carolina it is native in the Upstate and Central regions, and grows well throughout the state.
Sweetshrubs grow 3 to 9 feet tall by 6 to 12 feet wide. Plants grown in full sun will be shorter than those grown in part shade. Sweetshrubs have a dense, broad, rounded form in cultivation. They are multi-stemmed shrubs that tend to spread widely by growing new shoots (suckers) along the outer edges of the clump. Wild plants are much more open and tall.
Dark, reddish brown to wine-red flowers open in April to May, with occasional scattered flowers appearing during summer. They are 1 to 2 inches wide, shaped somewhat like small magnolia blossoms, and are produced abundantly.
Sweetshrub flowers have a sweet, fruity scent often described as ripening apples, pineapple, strawberry, melon, banana or bubble gum. The scent is highly variable from plant to plant, and some have little fragrance or even an objectionable odor.
Flowers are long lasting on the shrub and also make good cut flowers. They can also be dried and added to potpourri. All other plant parts are fragrant also, with the leaves, seed pods and bark having a spicy scent when crushed.