unknown small tree (ID complete)

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Date Photo Taken: November 12, 2010
Location: Decatur, GA
Posted By: Kerimbaev


This small tree has simple, deciduous, alternate, smooth-edged leaves, so you’d THINK this one would be easy since that encompasses such a small group of native trees. But I can’t for the life of me figure this one out. Our neighborhood Park has quite a few of these trees that have bright green-yellow fall foliage right now. They really stand out, and we should know what they are. I thought maybe it was alternate-leaf dogwood, but the twig/leaf pattern and upper leaf veining don’t really look like pics I found online of Cornus alterniflora. Then I thought it was Blackgum, but the bark doesn’t match, the foliage isn’t scarlet, and my leaves are fuzzy-hairy on blade and petiole. My leaves are soft and fuzzy on both sides. Bark and buds don’t match Persimmon either. Finally, Pawpaw leaves are bigger and buds look completely different. Not sure what to make of this tree. Maybe it isn’t native? There are no fruits right now and of course, no flowers. Buds are small and underdeveloped, so this is a tough one to call. Anyone have a clue? Thanks!


  1. Clare Johnston Unregistered says:

    How about Lindera benzoin, “Spicebush.”

    November 17th, 2010 at 12:08 pm
  2. Walter Reeves The Georgia Gardener says:

    nice call Clare!

    Anyone disagree?

    November 17th, 2010 at 2:53 pm
  3. Russell Camp Unregistered says:

    Have you noticed any seed structures, on the tree or on the ground? I have a suspicion that you have one of the Halesias. I think this plant is too homely to be a naturalized landscape plant, it’s got to be native. Great photos and description, by the way!

    Russell Camp
    Southern Garden Coach

    November 17th, 2010 at 3:03 pm
  4. Kerimbaev Unregistered says:

    Thanks Russell, but Clare and Walter have it in the bag, I think. No wonder I could not ID this plant — I don’t have a field guide to shrubs! I thought for sure it was a tree, as they all have single stems and are pretty tall in our Park. But I learned to search the shrubs if I can’t ID a tree now. I’m almost certain it’s not a Halesia as the leaves are not toothed at all, and the online sources I found after Clare’s diagnosis confirm the Lindera benzoin ID. They are not really homely at all, but gorgeous color this time of year in Georgia! Thanks for the help once again. Please help me ID my submission “Unknown Short Weed continued” on this site, too! Another mystery…


    November 17th, 2010 at 9:51 pm
  5. Shannon Pable Unregistered says:

    I definitely agree with Lindera benzoin. Also, crush the leaves…they are very aromatic (smell like grapefruit to me). This is from benzoic acid which is used for perfumes, incense, food.
    Another characteristic of the Lindera is the speckled bark; it has numerous lenticels (Halesia has a very noticeable striated bark).
    The birds have eaten all of the berries on my spicebush. Lindera is both dioecious and polygamous…so sometimes you will find one that does not berry.

    November 27th, 2010 at 8:44 am

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