Daily Sketches – June 30 Flowers – 3. Calycanthus floridus

Shrub native to North America, Calycanthus floridus was brought to Europe for its decorative value, being appreciated for the brown-cherry flowers and for its fragrance with fruity notes of pineapple-strawberry-banana. As the flowers mature they start to smell like ripe apples or vinegar. Not only the flowers, but also the leaves and bark have a strong aromatic scent that brought it the popular name of Carolina All Spice.

The plant it’s part of the Magnoliid clade and it is closely related to Chimonanthus, another fragrant shrub, whose flowers you have often seen me sketching in winter.

The flowers bloom at the end of short branchlets in May, are 5cm across, with numerous spirals of narrow and leathery tepals that open gradually as the flowers mature (we name tepals those parts of perianth that cannot easily be classified as either sepals or petals). Their color is often burgundy, with brown, burn tips. There are 5-30 yellow stamens, arranged in a spiral. The styles are long and slender, 5-35, each with 1 carpel.

Left: mature flower with burned tips on the tepals. Right: the spiral arrangement of the tepals and a close up drawing of calyx tube from which the tepals are removed, the stamens and the tips of the styles.

Be careful, don’t use it used to flavor foods: Calycanthus contains calycanthine, an alkaloid similar to strychnine, toxic to humans and livestock. Some argue that the only poisonous part of the plant is the seed and Native Americans use the plant as medicine; however, it is certain that a thorough knowledge of the plant is necessary before using it for food or medicinal purposes.


In today’s tutorial I’m explaining the method of drawing the flower in detail and I add volume with ink and watercolor:

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