Cliftonia monophylla (Lam.) Britton ex Sarg.

Buckwheat Tree, Black Titi, Iron Wood




Family: Cyrillaceae

Genus: Cliftonia

Category: Shrub - Evergreen

Zones: 7 to 10

Size: 15 to 20' tall, 6 to 8' wide (can be much larger)

Growth Rate: Moderate

Exposure: Sun, Filtered Sun, Part Shade


White flowers from February to April. Glossy green leaves and shrubby habit. Prefers moist to wet sandy soil.

From Silva of North America page 7:

The Cliftonia sometimes grows, under favorable conditions, to a height of forty or fifty feet, with a stout trunk which is crooked or often inclining, occasionally fifteen to eighteen inches in diameter... The trunk generally divides, twelve or fifteen feet from the ground, into a number of stout ascending branches; or sometimes, especially in the region bordering the Atlantic Ocean, where the Cliftonia rarely assumes the habit of a tree, the stem divides at the ground into numerous straggling stout or slender branches, growing sometimes a few feet high, or often to a height of thirty or forty feet. The shoots of the year are slender, rigid, and covered with bright red-brown bark, which gradually becomes paler during the second and third seasons. The leaves are one and a half to two inches long, half an inch to nearly an inch broad, bright and lustrous on the upper, and paler on the lower surface... The inflorescence appears in February and March... The Cliftonia is one of the most ornamental of the small trees of the North American forests, especially in the early spring, when it is covered with delicate fragrant flowers made conspicuous by their background of dark green lustrous foliage.



Native to North America and typically found growing in acid swamps and bogs in the lower southeastern coastal plains.

Published in Silva (Sargent) 2: 7: pl.52 in 1891. It was probably introduced into English gardens by John Fraser at the time of one of his last voyages to America, and flowered in 1812 or 1813 in his nursery at Sloane Square in London.

Basionym: Ptelea monophylla Lam.

'Monopyhlla' comes from the Greek word "mon" meaning "one" and from "phyll" meaning leaf.

My Experience: 

I purchased a 1-gallon plant from Woodlanders in April 2013 and planted it in the Mail Box Garden. It seemed to be doing well then in summer the leaves went brown and drooped and it did not return.

Sources of Information

© 2010-12 Lisa J. Miner