Symplocos tinctoria - (L.)L'Hér.
Common Name Sweet Leaf, Common sweetleaf
Family Symplocaceae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Woods, swamps and bottomlands[43]. Rich moist soils, often in the shade of dense forests[82].
Range South-eastern N. America - Florida to Arkansas, north to Delaware.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

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Symplocos tinctoria Sweet Leaf, Common sweetleaf

Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1991. Southern wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. South National Technical Center, Fort Worth.
Symplocos tinctoria Sweet Leaf, Common sweetleaf
William S. Justice @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of shrub
Symplocos tinctoria is an evergreen Shrub growing to 8 m (26ft 3in). It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.


Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses:

Leaves - raw. Thick and downy, they have a pleasant sweet smell and taste[245]. Chewed for their pleasantly sweet, slightly acid flavour that is refreshing and helps to ease thirst[183].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Febrifuge;  Tonic.

The bitter, aromatic roots have been used as a tonic[46, 82]. A decoction of the scraped roots has been used in the treatment of fevers[257].


Other Uses
Dye;  Mordant;  Wood.

A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves, the bark and the fruits[1, 46, 82]. We have no specific information for this species but many species in this genus contain alum and can be used as mordants when dyeing[168]. Wood - soft, weak, light, close grained, easily worked[46, 82, 235]. It weighs 33lb per cubic foot[235]. Used for turnery[46, 82].
Cultivation details
Easily grown in any fertile soil[182]. Prefers a sunny position in a well-drained fertile acid to neutral soil[200]. Plants are often found growing in dense shade in the wild[82]. This species is not very hardy in Britain, it only succeeds outdoors in a sheltered position in the warmest counties of the country[182]. Forms of this species that are hardy in Britain might exist in the north of the plants range or at higher elevations[11]. This species is not a true evergreen, but in climates with mild winters the previous years leaves are not lost until after the new leaves come into growth[229]. Self-sterile, it needs cross-pollination with a different plant in the same species if seed and fruit are to be produced[182]. The flowers are sweetly perfumed[245]. The leaves also have a sweet smell[245]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].
Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed requires stratification and is best sown in a cold frame in late winter, it can take 12 months to germinate[11]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in individual pots in a cold frame[78, 200]. Roots are formed in about 4 weeks. Good percentage[78].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
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Subject : Symplocos tinctoria  

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