As its name suggests, the allspice flower (Calycanthus floridus) is beloved for its fragrance, which many describe as intoxicating: a rich, spicy blend of fruits and cinnamon. But there’s more to this lovely plant than simply its aromatic, brown-red blossoms and shiny foliage. Also known as sweetshrub, bubby blossom, and strawberry bush, the allspice flower has many culinary and medicinal uses and is imbued with the rich symbolism of benevolence, wit, and compassion. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about allspice flower meaning in the language of flowers.
Allspice Flower Meaning & Symbolism
The genus name Calycanthus comes from the Greek kalyx, which means “calyx,” and anthos, or “flower.” The species name floridus refers to the state of Florida, which lies within the plant’s native range, as well as the Greek floridus or “flowery.”
Allspice Flower Meaning in Floriography
In the Victorian era, floriography —also known as the language of flowers —was a popular way to send coded messages. Each flower has its own symbolic meaning (and sometimes several meanings) depending on the color, combination, and even the way it is presented or displayed.
In the language of flowers, allspice stands for benevolence, wit, and compassion.
Common Allspice Flower Colors and Their Meaning and Symbolism
Allspice flowers grow in several colors, thanks to cultivars. The species produces red-brown or maroon blooms. In the language of flowers, this color has associations with refinement, relaxation, and loyalty.
Allspice flower cultivars include:
- ‘Athens’ and ‘Venus” have white flowers; white is often associated with purity and innocence.
- ‘Katherine’ has lime-green flowers, a color that’s sometimes associated with rebirth, renewal, fortune, and prosperity.
- ‘Aphrodite” with red flowers; red is often associated with passion, love, and affection
- ‘Burgundy Spice’ has purple blooms, a color often associated with elegance, success, and admiration.
The History of Allspice Flowers
Allspice flowers are native to the southeastern United States. The indigenous peoples of this region have long valued the plant for its medicinal uses and fragrant aroma.
With the support of the botanist and patron William Sherard, a British artist and naturalist named Mark Catesby launched a four-year expedition in the 1720s. Catesby traveled to the southeastern U.S. region to collect native plant species.
When he returned to England, he published an illustrated guide called The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. He also brought back hundreds of plants, which ended up in the Oxford University collections.
Among these specimens was an allspice flower. In his book, Catesby describes the plant as being “odiferous as cinnamon”.
The Swedish botanist Linnaeus used Catesby’s work when naming the plant in 1759. At that time, it was the only genus in the Calycanthus species.
Folklore Associated With Allspice Flowers
In C. floridus’s native range, the flowers were used to scent the body much like a sachet. Legend has it that the common name “bubby bush” stems from the way women used the flowers long ago.
Women used to crush allspice blossoms and wear them tucked beneath their decollete. Body warmth would cause the flowers to release their fragrance throughout the day. This practice is thought to have resulted in the colloquial name “booby bush,” which some believe is the less-polite version of “bubby bush.”
Suitable Occasions to Gift Allspice Flowers
Allspice flowers make a perfect addition to a floral gift for friends and family. They add deep color and a wonderful, spicy scent that adds fragrance to the room.
Consider giving allspice flowers for house warmings, birthdays, congratulations, or “just because” gifts. Given the symbolic meanings of benevolence, compassion, and wit, these blossoms are a great way to let someone special know that you care and you’re thinking of them fondly.
Uses and Benefits of Allspice Flowers
Allspice flowers are valued as ornamental plants in the landscape. They’re easy to grow and add color and fragrance to the border. The plants are a great choice near walkways or patios, as they release their unique aroma with every breeze.
Along with their uses as ornamental plants, allspice flowers have culinary and medicinal uses, as well. Despite their name, the flowers are not related to the allspice spice. In fact, every part of the plant, except for the bark, is toxic to mammals (for more, see our in-depth guide to popular flowers that are toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets).
The bark of the allspice plant, however, can be dried and grated. It’s been used as a substitute for cinnamon.
The plants have long been valued for their many medicinal applications. Native Americans made tea from the bark and roots that was emetic and diuretic and used to treat bladder and kidney issues.
In addition, the aromatic leaves contain a substance much like camphor. They can be crushed and used to repel insects and as a disinfectant. The plants have also been used to treat eye problems, wounds, and hives.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the plants treat arthritis, rheumatism, coughing, vertigo, fever, nausea, and other conditions.
C. floridus has been a subject of scientific research since the 1880s. Then, it was discovered that these plants contain high concentrations of alkaloids, flavonoids, essential oils, and other compounds.
Modern research indicates that the plants have potential anti-convulsant, anti-fungal, anti-viral, analgesic, and anti-tumor properties.
The allspice flower’s native range stretches across the southeastern United States, from Texas in the west to Florida in the west and north to Virginia, Illinois, and Iowa.
The plants grow in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 10. They grow to 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide and prefer sites with full to partial sun, though they can tolerate shade. It grows best in moist but well-draining soil with a pH that’s slightly acidic to neutral.
The allspice flower belongs to the Calycanthus genus of flowering plants. The species floridus is one of about three in the genus, which belongs to the Calycanthaceae family.
The plant grows as a shrub with a rounded shape and shiny, deciduous foliage. The red-brown, burgundy flowers appear in early spring before the foliage returns. It may also bloom at other times during the spring and summer.
Allspice Flower FAQs:
Is Allspice Poisonous?
All parts of the allspice plant are toxic to mammals, with the exception of the bark.
Is Allspice an Annual or Perennial?
The allspice is a deciduous shrub. It loses its leaves during the cooler months and regrows them in spring.
How many different types of Allspice are there?
There are several cultivars of allspice. They produce flowers in different colors, such as white and lime green.
Where does Allspice typically grow?
In its native range, allspice grows in moist, loamy woodlands. It often grows in the dappled shade of the forest understory.
Does Allspice attract certain types of wildlife?
Allspice is a beneficial plant for pollinators. It’s also a source of food for wildlife.
Is Allspice suitable for cut flower arrangements?
Allspice adds lovely color, shiny foliage, and a delicious aroma to cut arrangements.
What symbolic meanings are associated with Allspice?
Allspice symbolizes benevolence, compassion, and wit in the language of flowers.
What are some companion plants that grow well with Allspice?
Good companion plants for allspice include highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).
Allspice Flower Meaning – Wrapping Up
The allspice flower isn’t just a lovely blossom; it also fills the room with a wonderful, fruity, and spicy aroma. These attractive landscape plants also have several medicinal uses, attracting pollinators to the landscape. In the language of flowers, use can give allspice to send a message of wit, compassion, and benevolence to those you care about.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.