Plant Characteristics:

  • Tree: up to 30 ft tall
  • Bark: small gray blocks
  • Blooms: March-May
  • Buds: sharply pointed about 1 in long
  • Flowers: very small cream to green, clustered tightly, surrounded by four large white notched bracts
  • Leaves: deciduous, opposite, simple and egg shaped
  • Fruit type: red drupe 1/2 in
  • Fall Foliage: red to purple

Additional Details:

  • Used medicinally during the civil war in tonics as a substitute for quinine in combating fevers.
  • Twigs were used as chewing sticks – a forerunner to the toothbrush.
  • Wood used for tool handles and circus tent stakes.
  • Larval host to the Spring Azure (Celastrina “ladon” ).

This is the commonwealth (or state) tree and flower for Virginia.

References:
Brown, R. and M. Brown. 1972. Woody Plants of Maryland. Port City Press, Baltimore, MD.
Foster, S. and J. Duke. 1990. A field guide to medicinal plants of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.
Grimm, W. C. and J. Kartesz. 2002. The Illustrated Book of Trees. Stackpole Books. Mechanicsburg, PA.
Harris, J. and M. Woolf Harris. 1994. Plant Identification Terminology: An illustrated Glossary. Spring Lake Publishing, Spring Lake, UT.
Peterson, L. 1977. A field guide to edible wild plants of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.
Virginia Department of Forestry. 2022. Common Native Trees of Virginia – Tree Identification Guide.