Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Sweet Bubby 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, Bubbies, 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 everywhere not seeming to mind if they’re close to water or not. They commonly grow throughout the southeast portion of the US.

Old timey 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

Papaw Wade and Steve

The Carolina Spice Bush will forever remind me of Papaw.

Papaw Wade 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.

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 dancing fire and a heart of pure love his favorite flower was the Carolina Spice Bush.

Tipper

This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in May of 2010.

 

You Might Also Like

26 Comments

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette-Dean
    July 2, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    My grandma always called them “bubby roses”. I would sure like to have one at my house now! I was always fascinated by their deep color and wonderful smell! <3

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    July 2, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for the lovely memories. My dear Mother told me about them and showed me what they were. I’ve always wanted one and didn’t think about trying to grow one. Now I will keep my eyes open for one to move to our yard so that I can enjoy their beauty and fragrance. My husband dug up a “hearts bursting with love” bush and planted it for me last year. it seems to be growing and doing well but it hasn’t produced any of the pretty colored seeds. I sure hope it will “bloom” since I keep checking on it to see if it keeps doing well there. Any suggestions on how to get it to “bloom”?

  • Reply
    Jeanie
    September 19, 2018 at 10:50 am

    I got one of the Sweet Shrub plants and if you close your eyes they will come in the back door. They spread awful fast and we have to use a plant killer on them or dig and dig. The blooms smell so good tho.

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    May 31, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    We have a good stand of Sweet Briar bushes on Cherry Mountain. I brought two small plants here from Rocky Face Mountain in Dalton, Georgia in 1969.

  • Reply
    Ginny Peterson
    June 11, 2015 at 8:55 am

    My sister-in-law brought me a root from her Sweet Bubby Brush. I planted it this Spring so I am hoping next year that I will see it did take root and I can enjoy that wonderful sweet fragrance . Also to have a plant that goes back so many years and still have them around to enjoy is priceless.
    Thank you for posting this information i enjoyed reading. Big thanks to my sister-in-law
    ( Irene Peterson ) for one of her plants that she shared with me.

  • Reply
    Quinn
    June 9, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    OH, I don’t believe my good luck in finding this post today! I saw a branch of this recently for the very first time ever, had no idea what it was, and no one to ask. THANKS, TIPPER!!!

  • Reply
    Elaine V. Medley
    June 7, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    My mom always called them a bubbie bush. I have some in my yard now and the lovely scent always reminds me of her. They do tend to spread like crazy all over!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    June 6, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Tipper,
    I am all to familiar with the “Sweet Bubby bush” or “Sweet Shrub” the two names my Mother and grandmother called them, on occasion calling them a spice bush! My Mother missed this shrub so much and would speak of it many times when I was a child. We often would walk out into the moist woods near her home to the place where she gathered the flowers. They used it for sachets and put the flowers in there bra’s, etc.
    She finally got a sprout and brought it back to East Tenn. and nursed it into a full grown shrub…How she loved that plant!
    Thanks Tipper for the memories..
    to Jim…I knew the story about the “bubby bush” since my Mom told me about the flowers years ago…However, some would need more flowers then others and of course some would need only one…LOL

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 5, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    Nobody noticed that the beautiful blossom of the sweet bubby bush is also the background color of blindpigandtheacorn? And also one of the school colors of Swain County High School?
    I only suggested that the perfume of the shrub was not one of my favorites. The bloom is beauty fuel!

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    June 5, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Yes, we have the bubbie bush here along on the creek bank. I love the smell. One of my favorites.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    June 5, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    I’m surprised to think I can’t recall ever seeing this bush down here in the Carolina sandhills. I’d sure like to have a few for my garden though cause they sound just lovely.
    How’s your PawPaw doing?
    Been praying for him, and for you all.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Bryant Cooper
    June 5, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I don’t think we have them in TX.
    Has anyone ever heard of a Confederate Rose Bush?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 5, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Tipper–I’m a bit surprised that no one has suggested the possible origin of this plant’s colloquial name. I’ll offer some insight if it gets by the censor (you).
    In bygone days when the process of taking a bath was a major undertaking, mountain women often disguised body odors with the blooms by putting a flower or two in the bosom or “boobies,” hence the name bubby or bubbies).
    I’ve heard this multiple times over the years.
    I also seem to recall than the plant is poisonous for cattle, although I don’t know for a fact that such is the case.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    June 5, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    I miss sweet shrub – makes you happy when you see and happy when you smell it.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 5, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    A commercial source for Sweet Shrub is Nearly Native Nursery near Atlanta. Details for the plant are here:
    http://nearlynativenursery.com/PlantsDetail.cfm?offset=301&ID=241
    I can vouch for it gowing in part shade but I would suspect it does not bloom as well when it has more shade than sun.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 5, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    We had sweet bubbies when I was growing up. I had one even after I was grown when I lived on Hauss Ridge over in Valdese. I hate to be the contrary one but I don’t like the smell. It’s too sweet! It reminds me of sickness and death. Like a nursing home smell. Like it’s there to mask the odor of something unpleasant. The smell of moth balls make me feel the same way. My wife’s mother used to put moth balls all through the house. She said it kept out rats and snakes. I’m thinking “and sons in law, too!”

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 5, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I moved some Bubby Bushes from our old farm to remind me of the days of my youth. Little did I know how they would spread Everywhere the root gs close surface new bush sprouts. We now trim the bushes several times a year. I still love the smell but little did I realize it’s power to replicate.

  • Reply
    ncmountainwoman
    June 5, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Yes, we do have them growing around here. And I think of my mother every time I see or smell them. She says they used to put the buds in their bras for perfume when she was a teenager.

  • Reply
    Yancey
    June 5, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Growing up in the 50’s we had one that grew in front of the front porch along with the boxwoods, nandina, and japonica quince.
    Now where I live in Fairview we have quite a few growing in the edges of the woods and even along the road behind the mailboxes.
    I still love to pick a small handfull of blooms and let them warm in a closed fist to intensify the fragrence.
    Anyone here ever made “Bubby bush” jelly? I’ve never tasted it but my former Mother-in-law mentioned one of her friends making it.

  • Reply
    dolores
    June 5, 2015 at 9:31 am

    I don’t think I have ever seen one, but I will pay more attention the next time I am wandering along a creek/stream. I would enjoy the smell. Thanks for giving me another reason to check out the wooded and wet areas of the woods.

  • Reply
    Ken
    June 5, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Tipper,
    I don’t know much about flowers,
    but during the last half of May
    the Honeysuckle smells wonderful.
    It’s all over Granny Squirrel and
    the best smelling stuff I ever saw.
    It’s my favorite…Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 5, 2015 at 8:54 am

    I have just one in the front yard, planted by the previous owner – a forester. It has already bloomed here. It gets my attention each spring by the strawberry-like smell.
    I had not thought of making sachets with it. Good idea. Would be a good use for my dehydrator.
    I made my first acquaintance with this shrub on the banks of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River in southeastern KY. However, it is not at all common in that country.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    June 5, 2015 at 8:27 am

    I’ve never seen or heard of these lovely bushes, but would love to get them established here. Does anybody sell them? If not, may I raid your seedlings?

  • Reply
    Janice McCall
    June 5, 2015 at 8:19 am

    My daddy was small in stature but could outwork any man twice his size. Daddy loved Sweet Shrubs. I have two varieties but neither smell as sweet as the ones Daddy would hold to my nose.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 5, 2015 at 7:18 am

    I don’t have one, at least not that I’ve found yet. I am familiar with the bush. It always seemed to me that it should bloom in the fall rather than the spring. I don’t know why, perhaps the deep color.

  • Reply
    Denise Duckett Mauck
    June 5, 2015 at 5:34 am

    We had some growing in our backyard. I think Mother brought the original plant back to South Carolina after one of her trips to Canton to visit my aunt. I used to think think they smelled like chocolate. I love the smell!

  • Leave a Reply