Symplocos tinctoria (the common sweetleaf, horse-sugar, or yellowwood) is a deciduous or evergreen shrub or tree. It is recognized by pith of twigs chambered; by foliage not notably aromatic when bruised, leaves finely hairy beneath. Shrubs or trees to 17 m tall by 36 cm DBH. The largest first-year twigs are under 3 mm across, terminal buds with acute tip, scales ciliate. Leaves are 7–15 cm long, margin entire or occasionally some teeth on the apical half, with a sweet taste that may be faint in old leaves. It is conspicuous when in flower; flowers opening before new leaves develop, fragrant, in clusters from axils of previous year's leaves or from just above the leaf scars if the leaves have fallen; the petals are creamy yellow to yellow, with one pistil. Fruits nearly cylindrical to ellipsoid drupes 8–12 mm long, with thin pulp and a hard stone containing 1 seed; the tip usually retaining parts of the sepals. Foliage is relished by browsing wildlife. A yellow dye may be obtained from bark and leaves. It flowers Mar to May.
Distribution and habitat
Occasional, plants are often scattered; uncommonly grouped; thin to dense woods of slopes, bluffs, broad-leaf woods of sandy soils, stream borders and stable dunes. Only representative of the genus in North America, mostly in the southeast.