Symplocos tinctoria (L.) L'Her.

  • Family: Symplocaceae
  • Common name: sweetleaf, horse sugar

    Large shrub or small tree to 6 m (20 ft) tall. Twigs thin, light green to gray, pubescent becoming glabrous, pith chambered. Leaf buds small, conical. Flower buds round. Bark bitter, aromatic, gray, smooth or lightly fissured. Leaves lanceolate to elliptical, 7.5-13 cm (3-5 in) long and 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in) wide, usually not toothed, shiny dark green above, pale green and pubescent below, with sweet taste. Flowers numerous, crowded in clusters on previous year's twigs, fragrant, white or yellowish, about 1 cm (0.4 in) across, blooming in early Spring. Fruits in stalked clusters along twigs, about 1 cm (0.4 in) long, with 5 teeth at tip, green to brown, 1-seeded, ripening in late Summer or Fall.

    Distribution: Native to about the southeastern quarter of the U. S., mostly on the Coastal Plain.
    Habitat: Understory of moist upland forests and well-drained lowland forests.
    NWI status: FAC+
    Comment: Sweetleaf is sometimes planted as an ornamental. Horses are attracted to the sweet foliage and browse on it. Symplocos refers to the united stamens; tinctoria refers to a dye made from the leaves and roots.

    Distribution in Oklahoma:

    Last update: 9/20/99
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