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Fall foliage and flower buds on a Japanese spicebush in the Arboretum’s Woodland Garden. (Photo by Niall Dunne)

Native to Japan, Korea, and China, Japanese spicebush (Lindera obtusiloba) is a stellar, all-season showstopper. Around mid-March, its bright-yellow, star-shaped flowers emerge in lavish quantities from the bare stems, providing a welcome contrast to the often-dour weather days. Its large, aromatic, and polymorphic (differently shaped) leaves provide opulent texture and shade—and they turn a rich, buttery yellow in fall. Shiny, black fruits and large, round, yellow-to-red flower buds add interest in the cooler months.

In the latest issue of the Arboretum Bulletin, UW Botanic Gardens horticulture supervisor Roy Farrow profiles the species and tells the story behind the specimens in the Arboretum’s Woodland Garden.