This is a fine ornamental with its white, urn-shaped fragrant flowers that grow in long clusters. It is named for its sour tasting leaves that turn a brilliant red in the fall. Its close grained, hard wood is used for fuel and pulpwood.

Oxydendrum arboreum, Sourwood or sorrel tree is native to eastern North America, and is most common in the lower chain of the Appalachian Mountains. With its late bloom and beautiful, brilliant autumnal coloring, the sourwood is a desirable ornamental tree in lawns and parks. It is a small tree or large shrub, growing to 30 to 65 feet with a trunk up to 20 inches diameter. Occasionally on extremely productive sites, this species can reach heights in excess of 98 feet 24 inches diameter.

The flowers are cream-white, bell-shaped, 1/4 to 1/3 inch long, produced on 6-10 inches long panicles in June and July. The fruit is a small woody, downy capsule.

The bark is gray with a reddish tinge, deeply furrowed and scaly. Branchlets at first are light yellow green, but later turn reddish brown. The wood is reddish brown, with paler sapwood; it is heavy, hard, and close-grained, and will take a high polish.

Leaves 3-8 inches long and 2.5 to 3.5 inches broad, with a finely serrated margin; they emerge bronze green and shining, and smooth; when fully grown, they are dark green, shining above, and pale below. In autumn, they turn bright scarlet. The leaves are heavily charged with acid and can be chewed (but should not be swallowed) to help alleviate a dry-feeling mouth. They are also a laxative.
Sourwood Full Grown

Sourwood Bark
The Sourwood tree is renowned for its nectar, and for the honey which is produced from it. Juice from its blooms is used to make sourwood jelly. The shoots were used by the Cherokee and the Catawba to make arrowshafts.

Sourwood Leaves Sourwood


1. "Oxydendrum." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from:

2. Jaknouse. Oxydendron arboretum-foliage. (2009) Digital Image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from:

3. Sourwood Tree (2012) Digital Image. Sonner Plant Farm. Web. 19, 2012. Retrieved from:

4. Sourwood Full Grown (2006) Digital Image. Fast Growing Trees Nursery. Web. 27 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: