Eastern Sweetshrub reminds us to “be still and know”

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EASTERN SWEETSHRUB Calycanthus floridus

By Orrin Morris

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10 ).

Wildflowers are objects of beauty to some and weeds to others. To some of us they are another example of God’s grace. That is, gifts from God that favor us though we do not merit such blessing.  They exalt God’s “in the earth” by their presence.

One of the unique delights we can look forward to in spring is the blooming of the Eastern sweetshrub. It was introduced to our colonial forefathers in 1726 but from what country or region is unclear.

The sweetshrub in my yard blooms for only a week or 10 days, but ooh what pleasure. To me, the flowers are the most redolent of all the spring scents. They waft the fragrance of apple butter cooking in Mama’s kitchen; however, others declare that the scent reminds them of strawberries. If you’ve never been around this unique blossom you’ve missed a treat.

This shrub grows to about 10 feet in wooded areas. Ours is among some pines, but most thrive on hills and stream banks on the edge of hardwood groves. The blooms are deep reddish-brown and measure from 1 1/2 to 2 inches across when fully opened. The dark glossy leaves are opposites and the blooms appear at the axil of each pair of leaves. The chocolate colored branches are smooth.

Two other common names for this shrub are Carolina allspice and sweet Betsy. The Eastern sweetshrub needs moist soil, so like most plants, they don’t do well during extended dry spells.

If you miss seeing and smelling the sweetshrub in our local area this spring, may I suggest you take a trip into North Georgia in June and watch for the shrubs along stream banks. One of the sure places to go is Amicalola Falls State Park above Dahlonega toward Ellijay, Ga.

Eastern sweetshrub can be found from New York and Massachusetts to Florida and westward to Louisiana and Missouri.  Wherever found, they remind us to be still and remember that God is exalted above all.

Rev. Orrin Morris is an artist and retired minister.  This article first appeared in The Rockdale Citizen and is reprinted with permission by the author.

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