A shrub or small tree to 18 feet tall, with a tapering trunk up to 12" in diameter, usually swollen at the base. The upright branches form an irregular, rounded crown.
Occurs throughout Texas, on moist, rich soils, wetlands, or other frequently flooded sites.
Simple, opposite on the twig or in whorls of three, 3" to 8" long and 1" to 3" wide, oval or elliptical, pointed, rounded at the base, with a smooth margin. Leaves are thin, dark green above and lighter beneath, with a prominent central midrib.
Spherical clusters of round, creamy white or yellow flowers, about 1" in diameter appear in summer on stalks 1" to 3" long. The tiny individual flowers in the head are fragrant and nectar-bearing.
A mass of red-brown nutlets forming a spherical head about 0.75" in diameter.
Thin, smooth, and reddish brown, turning gray, then darker on older trunks, with flat plates and deep fissures.
Wood has no commercial value, but it is sometimes available in nurseries as a landscape plant.
Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) has confetti-like flowers and blue fruits; sweetleaf (Symplocos tinctoria) has an alternate leaf arrangement.
The species name "occidentalis" means "western" and usually refers to the western hemisphere. Conversely, the name "orientalis" means "eastern."