Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Sweetshrub - Calycanthus floridus   L.Only member of Calycanthus in NC.
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Section 4 » Order Laurales » Family Calycanthaceae
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DistributionThroughout the Mountains and the western half of the Piedmont, ranging as native eastward to the southeastern Piedmont (at least through the Uwharrie Mountains and along the Pee Dee River). Widely scattered, but perhaps escaped or of uncertain provenance, elsewhere into the northeastern Piedmont and parts of the western Coastal Plain. There are many new "county records" from photos on iNaturalist, but the website editors cannot verify that any of these are in natural habitats as opposed to gardens and other plantings (which are common); no such records have been added to the map.

This is a species of the Mid-South, with its main distribution in the southern Appalachians and the Piedmont, but it ranges well into the Gulf Coast area, south to western FL and extreme eastern TX. It occurs north only to PA and MO.
AbundanceCommon and widespread over the Mountains and Piedmont foothills. Fairly common to locally common in much of the central Piedmont, though more restricted in habitat. Infrequent in the Uwharries, and very rare and of uncertain nativity farther eastward, such as in the Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis is a species of rich hardwood forests. Favored habitats are cove forests, Basic Mesic Forests, and Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forests. Farther eastward into the Piedmont it is restricted to high pH soils, usually on cool, sheltered north-facing hardwood slopes.
PhenologyFlowers in April and May; fruits in August and September.
IdentificationThis is a familiar deciduous shrub in the western half of the state; it grows to about 5-7 feet on average. It has opposite, elliptical, and entire leaves that grow to about 4 inches long. Though there are quite a few shrubs with opposite, elliptical, and entire leaves, Sweetshrub can be identified by the fact that the stem is expanded at the nodes where the leaves attach. The shiny, brown stem has a very fragrant, “lemony” smell when broken. It has a unique flower that contains 15 or more “petals” (petals and sepals are not differentiated) that splay outward; the “petals” are up to 1 inch long and are purple-brown. The seeds of the fruit are enclosed in a “papery” capsule that looks like a sac, up to 2-3 inches long. Although experienced botanists can easily identify this shrub without flowers or fruit, inexperienced people may need the flowers or fruit to be sure of the identification.
Taxonomic CommentsSome references list a few varieties – both the nominate C. floridus var. floridus (a scarce form in the Piedmont) and C. floridus var. glaucus (more widespread in the state). The latter variety was formerly named as var. laevigatus.

Other Common Name(s)Strawberry-bush, Strawberry-shrub, Carolina Allspice, Eastern Sweetshrub, Sweet Bubby-bush (!), Sweet Betsy
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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US Status
USACE-agcpFACU link
USACE-empFACU link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieHeadwaters of Jacobs Creek. April 2008. StanlyPhoto_natural
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