Carolina Spice Bush

Carolina Spice Bush

The air around my house is fragrant with the sweet smell of Carolina Spice Bushes. The shrubby bushes are called by a variety of names including but not limited too: Sweet Shrub, Carolina Allspice, Sweet Bubby Bush, Applesauce Bush, Strawberry Bush, Sweet Betsy, and Florida Spice Bush. As you can see-each common name given to the plant is indicative of the sweet spicy aroma the blooms give off each spring. In my neck of the woods-I've heard it called Carolina Spice Bush and Sweet Shrub most often.

Sweet bubby bush

The blooms are a deep brownish maroon-they start out fairly tight and uniform and then as the days pass they flop open to revel the inner portion. I've read, Carolina Spice Bushes grow near creek banks-or where they can receive sufficient moisture-but around my house they grow wild every where-not seeming to mind if they're close to water or not. They commonly grow throughout the southeast portion of the US.

Old timy Strawberry bush

The sweet smelling bush is often thought of as old fashioned-reminding folks of their childhood or their grandparents house. In the 20s, 30s and 40s it was common for women to make sachets of the blooms to store in their drawers or closets. 

Old time southern baptist preacher

The Carolina Spice Bush will forever remind me of Papaw-that's him in the pic above-with my oldest brother Steve, and you can see Pap's hands and knees on the left hand side of the photo.

Papaw might have been small in stature-but he was larger than life in every other way. One of his legs was shorter than the other-from falling off a log cabin when he was a boy-no doctor to fix the break correctly in those days. He was truly the hardest working man I ever saw-I dare say he worked harder than Pap-and that's really saying something. With eyes of fire and a heart of pure love his favorite flower was the Carolina Spice Bush.

So do you have Carolina Spice Bushes growing around your place? Ever smelled one?

Tipper 

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34 Comments

  • Reply
    Bobby Joe
    October 18, 2016 at 3:22 am

    Since I was 2 years old, when we moved to Manasquan NJ, we had that Carolina Spice. I took a shoot with me to Brielle NJ, just next town South from Manasquan. It’s still growing in Oct. 2016, but not as well as in Squan. I think it is too crowded by black walnut trees and other bushes.

  • Reply
    Laura
    June 1, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I had a Papaw, too – dearly miss him. Moved to Rhode Island four years ago and bought a house with a Carolina spice bush. Love the history of the plant that you’ve provided. Your website is fascinating and I’m learning so much. Thanks for taking the time…..

  • Reply
    Emily Goff
    March 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    I grew up with a Sweet
    Betsy in our front yard. It is still there and HUGE. i have tried for years to take a cutting – finally last year one finally took hold! The smell reminds me of my childhood for sure. It is heavenly!!!!!

  • Reply
    Amber
    May 28, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Just reading up on these. I am 26 and these are by far my favorite flower. I was just at my grandmas and found the pod with the seeds. I am more than excited as I recently tried to root one and it did not work. Fingers crossed!
    Amber in NC

  • Reply
    Carolyn
    May 24, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Never smelled a Carolina Spice Bush … at least I don’t think so. Must ask Sister S if she’s got some in WV where she lives. I sent her some day lily bulbs last month for her to plant around her place. She loves them. xxoo

  • Reply
    Chef E
    May 24, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I can imagine the smell from your description! I will have to look for them next time I am in the area. When does the bloom fall off? I would come second week in June, but not this year- we have hubby’s 50th party with his family…
    I look forward to seeing more, can you tell us about the kudzo bloom? I did not see them when I was down there…pretty, but I know it takes over…

  • Reply
    Osagebluffquilter
    May 24, 2010 at 11:35 am

    How pretty. I’d love to smell one. We don’t have those either!

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    May 22, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I know these as ‘sweet bubbys’. My mom said they would put a bloom in their ‘bosom’ when they went to church. I dont have one, havn’t seen one in awhile.
    Patty H.

  • Reply
    Bob
    May 22, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Sweet Shrub is blooming here now in the hills of northeast Mississippi. Definitely an “old-time” plant, many here are found around old home places.
    Keep up the great work Tipper. Through the thoughtful words, wonderful photos and beautiful music of this unique blog, you’re a living treasure helping us celebrate our wonderful southern Appalachian heritage.

  • Reply
    Janet
    May 22, 2010 at 11:33 am

    No, I can’t say that we do have any of those around here. They do look familiar, tho, I’ve probably seen some in my travels. I bet they do smell good.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    May 21, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Tipper: Back from Mexico and trying to catch back up. Love the bush and the photo of Papaw.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Tipper, I don’t have any Carolina Spice, but I’d like to! Do you suppose the Deer Hunter would mark one for me and transplant it when the time is right? Two of my shrubs in front died so I just happen to have a spot!

  • Reply
    kay
    May 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Hi Tipper, I have one of sweet smelling bushes, and they smell so good. mine is not very old, but I baby it so much, I know my mother had one, and we would smell the sweet smell, I would pick them, and play like I was cooking with them, thank you so much for taking me back to my childhood days.Have a blessed day.k

  • Reply
    Becky
    May 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    How pretty! Never seen or smelled one that I know of.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    May 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    We have some growing wild — it smell like fresh pineapple to me. We call it Sweet Shrub.

  • Reply
    Pat
    May 20, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    An older lady by the name of Mrs. Walker always had a bag of the blooms with her on Sunday mornings. She would give one to me and I guess other little kids. I would sit with it in my hand and smell it during church. I loved the smell and it kept me from getting into trouble or wiggling too much. She called it a “Bubby bush”. I have no clue where that name came from but I love those bushes.
    Pat in western NC

  • Reply
    Rick
    May 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    That sounds like a real natural deoderizer. I am partial to lylacs myself.

  • Reply
    Lanny
    May 20, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Well it is decided then, Bet and I will be finding this bush in one of our local nurseries and bringing it home, perhaps for next to her ducks’ pen. I have been admiring pictures and descriptions of this bush when I come across it. It should handle my weather here, or so says the experts, so off we go to find one.

  • Reply
    EBet
    May 20, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Beautiful bushes we doen’t have any I might have to be sad about that, thay sound just heavenly.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    May 20, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Tipper, no Carolina Spice Bushes but lots of lilacs blooming and scenting the sunshine-y air! Have I told you lately how much I love reading your blog? It’s like taking a cool dip in an Appalachian freshwater spring on a hot, hard-working day. Thanks for the refreshment! 🙂

  • Reply
    lynn
    May 20, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    awww tipper i just love hearing about your memories and the things that bring you back to them.. i would love to smell those flowers.. do they dry well?? i mean if picked and sent to someone in an envelope.. (hint hint ) lol i can imagine when you smell them.. the memories of your pap… i too think of my grandpa.. when i smell lily of the valley. that was his favorite flower.. thanks so much for your stories.. i just adore them and look forward to reading about the heritage.. and hearing the beautiful music..
    sending big ladybug hugs
    lynn

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Anastasia-I love the smell of lavender! I’m glad you’re enjoying the music-its Bluegrass : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Faye M.
    May 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    I grew up loving this same bush in my “Granny’s” yard. The smell was something our whole family remembers with fondness. Several family members have taken starters from Granny’s bush, and grown their own, so her Sweet Shrub (as it was known to us) lives on. Thank you for your subject matter today. Wonderful trip down memory lane.

  • Reply
    Sandra
    May 20, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    there are none in Flordia but we had lots of them in Georgia. I love the smell and hat completly forgotten them. we called the sweet shrubs. my aunt had a whole hedge of them and we used to pick them and bring them inside to make the house smell good.

  • Reply
    Anastasia
    May 20, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    I have never heard of that bush before and I don’t think it grows in my part of the world. In Cyprus we’ve got plenty of thyme, basil and mint that you can even plant in pots in your garden or balcony and collect it fresh for cooking. In some parts of Cyprus, there’s lavender that my mother likes to collect, then she dries it and creates lavender bags for her drawers and wardrobe. I only wish I had her patience and talent!
    ~PS~ I’m just lingering on your blog as I happen to like this music very much – I guess it’s country music.

  • Reply
    betsyfromtennessee
    May 20, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Awe Tipper… You need to call it Sweet BETSY…. I’ve never heard of this bush. Of course there are alot of bushes around here which grow wild that I have no idea what their names are… The smelliest bush we have is HoneySuckle.
    Interesting post…. I’d love to smell that one.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

  • Reply
    Nancy Wigmore
    May 20, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Yes, I sure do remember the Sweet Shrub. My mama has one planted outside the back door of her house. Oh, thank you so much for posting this. Have a great day!

  • Reply
    Will Dixon
    May 20, 2010 at 10:46 am

    We have a Carolina Allspice growing in our backyard here in Portland, Oregon. Such a sweet smell. It is invasive though, so we have to keep it corraled by root pruning.

  • Reply
    MissFiFi
    May 20, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I wish you had a way to put the scent on your site because I bet my imagination can’t even compare to what it really smells like.
    So pretty!

  • Reply
    Jen
    May 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I have never seen that! Such pretty flowers that evoke such strong and wonderful memories! Pink Jasmine does that for me. Blessings!

  • Reply
    Just Jackie
    May 20, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I’m so glad you wrote about this bush. I have one on the way to the workshop and wondered what it was. I love that bush.

  • Reply
    Ethel
    May 20, 2010 at 7:55 am

    I don’t believe we have spice bushes this far north, but I wish we did! The flowers are gorgeous and I love any sweet-smelling flower! This weekend is our last frost date and I can’t wait to get my plants in – including the unbelievably sweet-smelling moonflowers. I also eagerly await the carnations, another fragrant favorite!

  • Reply
    Sharon
    May 20, 2010 at 7:29 am

    I sure do! It is on the NE corner of my house. Got a small sprig of it from a dear Aunt of mine now it is about 8′ high and eating my house but the smell is so heavenly. I think of her each time I smell it.

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    May 20, 2010 at 6:18 am

    I have never heard of this bush or remember seeing one, but it looks beautiful and sounds heavenly.

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