Plant Guide > Trees > Silver Bell and Sweet Leaf > Sweet Leaf or Horse Sugar Tree

Sweet Leaf or Horse Sugar Tree

Sweet Leaf or Horse Sugar TreeSweet Leaf, Horse Sugar (Symplocos tinctoria, L'Her.)A small, open-headed tree, 10 to 30 feet high, with short trunk and slim, ascending branches. Bark ashy grey with reddish cast, warty. Buds ovate, with triangular scales.

Leaves leathery, dark green and lustrous above; paler and pubescent beneath; 5 to 6 inches long, 1 to 2 inches wide, tapering at base and apex; entire or remotely toothed on margins; petioles short, winged. Flowers white, fragrant, in close axillary clusters; March to May. Fruit, a brown, nut-like drupe with 1 seed.

Preferred habitat, moist, shady woodlands. Distribution, Delaware to Florida; west to Blue Ridge Mountains, and in Gulf States to Louisiana and southern Arkansas. Uses: Rare in gardens, though it deserves attention for its handsome, sweet-tasting foliage.

Bark of stems and roots, bitter and aromatic, yields yellow dye and has tonic medicinal properties. Horses and cattle browse the foliage.