Trees of Alabama and the Southeast

Lisa Samuelson, Ph.D.
School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Auburn University


Sweetleaf
Symplocos tinctoria
Symplocaceae

Leaves are up to 6 inches long, simple, alternate, evergreen, leathery, yellow-green below, elliptical,  with smooth margins, and yellow petiole.  If you bit into the leaf midrib it tastes sweet. Twigs are gray and glaucous with shield-shaped leaf scars containing a single bundle scar. Bark is green-brown and smooth with a striped appearance, becoming fissured with age. Flowers are yellow-white in pom-pom like clusters. Fruit is a green drupe. Form is a small tree up to 9 m (30 ft) in height. Sweetleaf is found on moist soils in the eastern U.S. In the past, a yellow dye was made from the leaves and bark. The leaves are browsed by livestock and deer.

Photographs by Mike Hogan.

To view examples, click on the thumbnail below: