A deciduous tree losing all its leaves in early spring before new leaves appear. The resinous, reddish bark peels away in thin flakes and contributes to the common nickname “tourist tree.” The leaves are alternate, glossy green, and pinnately compound, with five to nine leaflets. Flowers are inconspicuous, with creamy white or greenish petals in many-flowered panicles. The fruits are dark red, containing one or two hard-shell seeds.
Wildlife – Host to the dingy purplewing (Eunica motima) butterfly. The seed is an example of what might be termed a “pebble-fruit,” ingested by certain seed-eating birds and used not as food but as grinding stones in their crops in lieu of pebbles.
The tree has been used to make living fences. The aromatic resin reportedly was used to make incense. It was also used in the treatment of gout and in the manufacture of varnish.