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Vick, Albert F. W.
Oxydendrum arboreum (L.) DC.
Sourwood, Sorrel tree
USDA Symbol: OXAR
USDA Native Status: L48 (N)
Tree with conical or rounded crown of spreading branches, clusters of flowers recalling Lily-of-the-valley, and glossy foliage that turns red in autumn. Open-grown sourwood is pyramidal and branched to the ground. If grown in shadier situations, the deciduous tree develops a taller, more columnar crown on a limbless trunk. Mature height ranges from 30-70 ft. The deeply furrowed bark is gray, tinged with red. Small, white, lily-of-the-valley-like flowers hang in rows from 6-8 in. spikelets, appearing after the leaves are fully grown. Pale yellow fruit capsules are almost as showy as the flowers. These darken and remain well after leaf drop in fall. Sourwood leaves turn a brilliant, deep-red in early fall.
Sourwood is an attractive ornamental throughout the year. Both the genus name, meaning sour tree, and the common name refer to the acid taste of the foliage, although Sourwood honey is esteemed. Abundant in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf:
Green Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jul
, WV Native Distribution:
s. to w. FL
& n.e. LA Native Habitat:
Well-drained woodlands of bluffs, ravines & hills; clearings
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Gritty, woodsy, acidic, well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: This is an all-season ornamental with few disease or insect problems. Flowering and fall color are maximized in the sun. Sensitive to pollution, soil compaction, and root disturbance, sourwood is not for urban areas.
BenefitConspicuous Flowers: yes
PropagationDescription: Germinate the minute seeds under mist or a plastic tent. Softwood cuttings treated with hormone should root well.
Seed Collection: Seeds are tiny and hairlike, ripening will after leaves have dropped.
Seed Treatment: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Record Last Modified: 2013-09-07
Research By: TWC Staff