Oxydendrum arboreum (L.) DC.
Sourwood, Sorrel Tree
Ericaceae (Heath Family)
USDA Symbol: OXAR
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.
From the Image Gallery
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jul
DistributionUSA: AL , FL , GA , IL , IN , KY , LA , MD , MS , NC , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , WV
Native Distribution: S. NJ & PA, s. OH, s. IN, s.e. IL, 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
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Honey Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
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
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
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Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Oxydendrum arboreum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Oxydendrum arboreum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Oxydendrum arboreum
MetadataRecord Modified: 2013-09-07
Research By: TWC Staff