Botanical Name: Oxydendrum arboreum
Common Name: Sourwood
Origin: E. & S.E. USA
Locations: CNE, CNW, KN
Notable Feature: Sourwood offers four seasons of interest: late spring blooms, glossy dark green, summer foliage, amazing fall color, and winter seedpods.
Habit: This deciduous, small to medium-sized tree is pyramidal in shape. In the wild trees may reach 50 to 75 feet tall although cultivated specimens typically reach only 25 to 30 feet high. The bark is gray with a reddish tinge, deeply furrowed and scaly, and in older trees similar to a Persimmon tree.
Flower: In mid-July small, white, urn-shaped flowers (1/4” in diameter) appear. The perfect (bisexual) flowers are fragrant and held in terminal nodding, elongated clusters, giving the appearance of Lily in the Valley.
Fruit: Persistent, 1/3” long, dehiscent (splitting), five-sided capsules form after flowering and eventually turn brown in the fall.
Foliage: Finely-toothed, glossy green leaves (5 to 8” long) are reminiscent of peach foliage. Leaves have a sour taste, hence the common name, and produce consistent excellent fall color, typically turning crimson reds and oranges.
Interesting Fact: Flowers are quite attractive to bees and the honey is a highly prized local product. A slow-growing tree, native to the southeastern United States as far north as Pennsylvania; most often found on well-drained soils above rivers or streams.