Scratch and Sniff

Scratching a spicebush branch with my thumbnail (photo by Kate St. John)

12 April 2022

We’re used to the idea that flowers smell sweet but did you know that some twigs and buds have scents too? Scratch and sniff to find these three.

Spicebush (Lindera sp.) stands out right now with yellow flowers in balls along the branches. Scratch and sniff the twig, as I am doing above. It smells like spice, almost nutmeg.

Spicebush at Schenley Park, 9 April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Before this tree leafs out, scratch and sniff a bud on a bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis). It smells like lemons.

Bitternut hickory buds, Schenley Park, 9 April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Juniper berries (Juniperus sp.) are a favorite food of cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) on spring migration. Last week I found 40 of them feasting at the junipers near CMU’s Morewood Gardens parking lot.

Scratch or crush a berry. It smells like gin. … Or so they say. I haven’t smelled gin in years because I don’t like it.

Juniper berries from Devonshire Street at CMU (penny for scale), 8 April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Try it and see.

(photos by Kate St. John)

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