Calycanthus ‘Venus’ | Carolina Allspice Hybrid

Calycanthus 'Venus' - Carolina allspice

Q: When is a Magnolia not a Magnolia?
A: When it’s a Calycanthus.

Calycanthus is an ornamental, multi-stemmed shrub that caught my eye last year at one of the flower shows. Large, creamy flower buds open out to fragrant blooms held above the foliage. The fleshy flowers are often compared to a magnolia, although the petals are slim, curly and more plentiful.

Calycanthus 'Venus' - flower with strappy petals and maroon centre

Calycanthus ‘Venus’ has larger flowers than your average sweetshrub. Unusually they are white with hints of greenish yellow instead of the more common red-maroon, their maroon centres making a lovely contrast. As the common name suggests, the blooms have a sweet, fruity fragrance – this variety has notes of strawberries and melons.

The leaves turn yellow in autumn for extra interest.

Calycanthus 'Venus' | Carolina allspice

You might know Calycanthus by these folk names:
Carolina Allspice
Eastern Sweetshrub
Strawberry Shrub
Bubby Blossom
Sweet Betsy
Florida Spice Bush

Shared in response to the Discover Prompt: Fragrance and for Cee’s Flower of the Day.

30 Replies to “Calycanthus ‘Venus’ | Carolina Allspice Hybrid”

    1. Quite. The folk names are great – I sometimes imagine the better (or perhaps the older) a plant, the more names it has. I do hope our generation is still making these up.

    1. I like the red ones too. Their flowers make me think of spiders from outer space. I have read that C. ‘Venus’ doesn’t fruit.

      1. Wow. It’s lovely! I did kind of scratch my head about relative size, thinking that Sweet Betsy must be a lot smaller than I pictured if it were the size of the lily of the valley, but I was quite willing to make the adjustment. I do love that photo.

  1. Calycanthus occidentalis is a Western species. I only learned that there were others species a few years ago. I had no idea that the genus is actually popular for home gardening in other regions. Ours is only rarely seen in landscapes of natives. The flowers are delightfully fragrant, but only up close. They are not much to look at. ‘Venus’ really does look like a star magnolia.

      1. The flowers seem to be larger too, like those of a star magnolia, and are more colorful. I happen to like the native species, so it would be interesting to see another species that would work better in landscape situation. There are some of the native here that I really should prune up to display the bloom better. They are not very prominent on overgrown plants.

  2. Reminds me a bit of Californian Allspice flower, but your image is much more ‘showy’ or decorative. I only remember the name Californian Allspice because it was a plant at the entrance to the Herb Garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and after taking a photo of the flower, it took me many months to identify it and put a name to my image.

    1. What an interesting choice for the Royal Botanic Gardens. It is not the prettiest of the genus. Perhaps it was selected because it is more appropriate to the local climate than other species are. It is native here, but because I do nothing to it, it is not much to look at. There are some that are close to landscaped areas that I should prune up to promote bloom, or at least display the bloom better. The flowers are really intriguing, but are not prominent. Pruning does not promote bloom, but shows them off better. The fragrance is alluring, even if it smells a bit like emptied wine barrels.

      1. I had read that you should try to buy a Calycanthus in flower, because their scent’s character and strength varies and that way you can be sure of getting one you like.

        1. I had NO idea. They must all be seed grown then. I never gave it any though, as I just got copies of mine from where old canes arched over and rooted where they touched the ground. That would explain why they are not very fragrant at a distance, while some people tell me that theirs are nicely fragrant. Mine certainly have a nice fragrance, but only up close. It does not travel far.

  3. Really beautiful. I recognize the names, but I don’t recall seeing anything like it around here.

    1. That’s a weird one, isn’t it? I was anxiously reading about the bad weather in Mississippi a few days ago and marveling (not for the first time) about some of the town names – Soso, Hot Coffee and Louise.

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