Oxydendrum arboreum (L.) DC.
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.
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.
White, ¼ inch long, urn-shaped, hanging below long stems that droop then lift upward, resembling lily-of-the-valley flowers, appearing in mid-summer.
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.
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.
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.