Symplocos tinctoria

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Common names: common sweetleaf[1],horsesugar [2]

Symplocos tinctoria
Symplocos tinctoria SEF.jpg
Photo by John Gwaltney hosted at Southeastern
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicots
Order: Ebenales
Family: Symplocaceae
Genus: Symplocos
Species: S. tinctoria
Binomial name
Symplocos tinctoria
(L.) L'Her.
Natural range of Symplocos tinctoria from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Taxonomic Notes

Variations: S. tinctoria var. pygmaea (Fernald), S. tinctoria var. ashei (Harbison).[3]


S. tinctoria is a perennial shrub/tree of the Symplocaceae family that is native to North America.[1]


S. tinctoria is found in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.[1]



Habitats for S. tinctoria include moist bottomland forest, pocosin edges, mesic forests, ridgetop forests, and sandhills.[4] Specimens have been collected from moist soil of mixed hardwoods, dry woods, ravine above stream, slope near floodplains, open upland woodland, upland hammock, and mesic hammock.[5]

Soils that are medum to coarse in texture are hospitable for S. tinctoria.[1]

This species is not tolerance of drought but is tolerant of shade.[1]


S. tinctoria has been observed flowering January through June with peak inflorescence in March.[6]

Fire ecology

Populations of Symplocos tinctoria have been known to persist through repeated annual burning,[7] and has been found to increase production after a prescribed burn.[8]

Herbivory and toxicology

This species is a common food source for the white tailed deer.[2]

Diseases and parasites

Galls due to a fungus has been observed on a plant in northeast Pensacola, Fl.[9]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

Cultural use

In the past the leaves have been used a chewing gum.[10]

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 USDA Plant Database
  2. 2.0 2.1 Atwood, E. L. (1941). "White-tailed deer foods of the United States." The Journal of Wildlife Management 5(3): 314-332.
  3. Weakley, A.S. 2015. Flora of the southern and mid-atlantic states. Working Draf of 21 May 2015. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  4. Weakley, A. S. (2015). Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Herbarium.
  5. URL: Last accessed: June 2018. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, R.K. Godfrey, A.H. Curtiss, Richland S. Mitchell, Sidney McDaniel, Paul Redfearn, Gwynn Ramsey, K. Craddock Burks, Rodie White, R.A. Norris, R. Komarek, J.M. Kane, John B. Nelson, Bert Pittman, Kathy Boyle, Herrick Brown, Richard Carter, Ron Miller. States and counties: Florida (Escambia, Okaloosa, Duval, Calhoun, Liberty, Jackson, Holmes, Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson, Columbia, Suwannee, Santa Rosa, Washington, Wakulla) Georgia (Grady, Thomas, McIntosh) South Carolina (Richland, Berkeley)
  6. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. Accessed: 29 MAY 2018
  7. Platt, W.J., R. Carter, G. Nelson, W. Baker, S. Hermann, J. Kane, L. Anderson, M. Smith, K. Robertson. 2021. Unpublished species list of Wade Tract old-growth longleaf pine savanna, Thomasville, Georgia.
  8. Lay, D. W. (1967). "Browse palatability and the effects of prescribed burning in southern pine forests." Journal of Forestry 65: 826-828.
  9. Observation by Steve Gallagher in Pensacola, Fl. March 12, 2018, posted to Florida Flora and Ecosystematics Facebook Group March 12, 2018.
  10. Fernald, et al. 1958. Edible Plants of Eastern North America. Harper and Row Publishers, New York.