Saxon Holt

Western spice bush (Calycanthus occidentalis) is a good-looking native shrub that offers maroon flowers in spring and brilliant gold foliage in fall. It’s a UC Davis Arboretum All-Star as well as part of the New Front Yard series.

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New Front Yard: Western spice bush

Published: Saturday, Apr. 19, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Friday, Jul. 18, 2014 - 6:56 pm

This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum “New Front Yard” series, 41 drought-tolerant and beautiful plants well adapted to our region.

Western spice bush

Calycanthus occidentalis

Size: 6 to 12 feet tall

Bloom season: Spring

Pruning needs: Little or none; prune to shape.

Exposure: Partial sun to full shade.

Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.

Snapshot: At home under taller trees or on a northern exposure, this shade-loving California native offers maroon-red flowers in spring and attractive gold foliage in fall, adding seasonal color to the dry garden. The flowers attract beneficial insects, including pollinating beetles. The leaves give this shrub its nickname; they have a sharp, clean fragrance. You can see specimens in the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.

• For more on the New Front Yard, click on

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See galleries of the arboretum’s Community Favorites and Arboretum All-Stars at

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