Winter is a fine time to learn a host of native shrubs, but I find spring to be a more fitting time to introduce Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). The top photo was taken in mid-February, and shows the distinctive, round buds of this shrub. The photo below, which I took earlier this week, shows a branch whose buds have opened to reveal yellow flowers. Wetlands where this shrub is common have begun to light up with these tiny bursts of sunshine.
Female plants will later sport red berry-like fruit, and all plants have aromatic leaves when crushed. Northern Spicebush belongs to the Lauraceae family, which includes many notable culinary spices, like Chinese Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia, from which culinary Cinnamon is derived), Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis, source of Bay Leaves) and Sassafras (Sassafras albidium).