Sourwood
Oxydendrum arboreum (L.) DC.

Sourwood: Full Size

Also known as Sorrel Tree or Lily-of-the-Valley Tree.

Mature Size: 30 to 40 feet in height and 8 to 12 inches in diameter.

Form: Poorly formed, often with leaning trunk and crooked branches.

Habitat: Forest understories with acidic, well-drained soils.

Leaves

Sourwood: Leaves

Alternate, simple, elliptical, 4 to 7 inches long, shiny green above and paler below, edges very finely toothed, sour tasting when chewed; turning crimson in fall.

Flowers

Sourwood: Flower

White, ΒΌ inch long, urn-shaped, hanging below long stems that droop then lift upward, resembling lily-of-the-valley flowers, appearing in mid-summer.

Fruit

Sourwood: Fruit

1/3 to 3/8 inch capsules, borne on long stems, turning brown and woody, splitting into 5 parts in fall to release very tiny, 2-winged seeds.

Bark

Sourwood: Bark

On very young shoots, bark may be red; on older trunks, becoming grayish brown, very thick with deep furrows and scaly ridges, often are broken into rectangles.

Twigs

Olive green, changing to red; buds small, round and pressed close to stem; broken twig smells like potatoes.

Values and Uses

The wood is brown, heavy, hard, very close-grained and compact. Although not considered a commercial wood, it is sometimes used for turnery, handles, pulp and fuel. Bees use the flowers' nectar to make a unique and desirable honey. It is sometimes planted as an ornamental for its attractive summer flowers and fall foliage.

Did You Know?

Sourwood often sprouts abundantly on cutover lands.