Plant of the Week: Willowleaf Spice Bush

Photo by Steven SeveringhausThe willowleaf spice bush, Lindera glauca var. salicifolia, shows off its autumn colors in the Northern Spur Preserve at West 16th Street. Photo by Steven Severinghaus

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

EnlargeWest Side Improvement Project

The willowleaf spice bush, Lindera glauca var. salicifolia, is a fairly inconspicuous member of the garden throughout the spring and summer, but when autumn comes along it is impossible to miss. The willow-shaped leaves turn a magnificent yellow-orange, and the small, green fruits become shiny and opal-black – a perfect autumnal contrast against the orange leaves.

On the High Line we’ve seen many of our resident and migratory birds feasting on this plant's fruit in the past few weeks. Although the foliage color fades quickly, the khaki-colored leaves remain intact throughout the winter, providing winter interest and screening potential in lieu of traditional evergreen screens. In the spring, emerging leaves take the place of the old leaves and begin the cycle again. For all you upstate gardeners, Lindera glauca var. salicifolia is often listed as deer-resistant!

You can see the willowleaf spice bush on the High Line’s Northern Spur Preserve – at West 16th Street – and at West 18th Street.

Download our November Bloom Guide.

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