A fungus on Sweetleaf from Paulette in SC

First noticed this because it looked like someone had thrown toilet paper into the woods and it landed on the edge of the branch, but the next year same thing. That one was over 10 feet tall and very leggy with few blooms. Now there are two on the edge of another part of the very edge of the woods, so in partial shade. One is small and shrub like but the other is very leggy. They both have fuzzy white yellowish flowers that if pollinated turn into that greenish fruit and then into the white thing that doesn’t even look like it should be on a tree? It is NOT an anomaly as the fruit looks the same year after year, same time of the year and only after the fuzzy flowers. We are in-between zones 8b and 9a it seems. I have tried for years to identify this. It may be a common, easy plant to identify, but I’ve not been able to find out what it is and would really appreciate knowing.

Hi Paulette,

This appears to be a shrub called Sweet leaf – Symplocos tinctoria. The actual fruit produced by those flowers is normally a green berry.  The unusual looking growth that can start green and then turn white is actually a fungus often seen on this plant – Exobasidium symploci – parasitic on this plant.  You can see another picture here: http://libutron.tumblr.com/post/78246835770/exobasidium-symploci-leaf-bud-gall-on-symplocos   Anyway, this is a fairly common shrub ranging from the coast to the mountains, and in the mountains it often flowers before the leaves come out.  I often see this fungus on the plants, especially in the spring.   A similar one grows on blueberries.


Steve Hill, botanist,   SCNPS

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