Move over Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Posh Spice and make way for Woodland Spice.

Spicebush is the latest flowering floral craze. Nancy Weaver, of Tisbury, found a blooming bush recently in the woods of Chilmark. Small yellow flower clusters tucked tight against the stem appear ahead of fruit and leaf emergence.

This shrub’s location up-Island is not surprising, since spicebush prefers the wetland areas of the moraine and the rich soil of streamside locations. It is often found near sassafras, a relative that also likes to get its feet wet. Farmers were always happy to see spicebush as it suggested suitable agricultural land.

The scientific name for spicebush, Lindera benzoin, honors Swedish botanist and physician Johann Linder, and a lookalike gum tree from the Far East. Other aliases include wild allspice, Benjamin bush, forsythia of the wilds, Appalachian spice and spice wood. Most of these names are self-evident, though one wonders where Benjamin bush came from. Spicebush is prized as both a medicinal and culinary herb whose value was first identified by Native Americans. Perhaps they were drawn by the irresistable fragrance found in the leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and stem. Described as woodsy, citrusy, and spicy, it yields its fragrance with a crush of the leaves, squeeze of the drupe, or snap of the stem.

Cherokees employed spicebush for respiratory ailments, skin concerns, joint and blood disorders and to induce sweating or vomiting. Native Creeks made teas made from fresh twigs, flowers, leaves and fruit, and used it to “break out measless,” while the Ojibwa made infusions for anemia and exhaustion. Spicebush was even believed to alleviate menstrual pain and was considered a remedy for yeast infections.

The peppery-flavored seeds make a great spice rub or marinade for meat. Dried and powdered fruit pulp and skin are a reasonable substitute for allspice or cinnamon and were popular during the American Revolution when imported spices were hard to come by. Even the bark can be chewed for flavor and health.

Before you partake, however, be warned that this plant is on a United States Food and Drug Administration poisonous plant list. Most other sources insist that the shrub is safe, edible and delicious, and has been used for centuries without undue burden (or death). Recipes abound, and two—spice cake and ice cream—sound especially delicious either on their own or paired together.

Many animals besides humans welcome the bountiful offerings of spicebush. Early in the season the flowers offer pollen for bees, and the berries are a favored food for thrushes, bobwhites, ruffed grouses and ring-necked pheasants. Rabbits are known to appreciate a good nibble, and the spicebush swallowtail and prometheus moths count this plant among their favorite foods. Look for either species’ caterpillars curled up among and within spicebush leaves.

The only thing this plant can’t do is rival those other spice girls in popularity—but for more natural culture and good taste, there’s no contest.

Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature and The Nature of Martha’s Vineyard.