Sourwood Tree

Sourwood trees are now starting to bloom in Frederick County but you will have more luck finding them in a landscape then you will in our local forests. Sourwood is somewhat uncommon throughout Maryland but it is very common in Virginia and the Southern Appalachian region. Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum) is a small tree that grows in the Appalachian Mountain region from Pennsylvania down to Georgia.

Credit: - Jim Conrad

The sourwood is the sole member of the genus oxydendron throughout the globe, which is fairly unusual in the plant kingdom. This slow growing, small tree is often found in the open or where it receives partial shade; it grows beside redbuds which have similar site requirements. The wood is reddish brown and very dense although the tree does not become large enough for lumber. Sourwoods have dark green leaves that turn a bright crimson to orange color in the fall and a white bell-shaped flower. The midsummer flowering and beautiful fall foliage make sourwood an attractive ornamental.

Sourwood is not too site-demanding and has very few insect or disease problems, making it a low maintenance landscape plant. Sourwood honey is very popular where this tree is found in abundance. Native Americans utilized sourwood branches for arrow shafts.

Article by Ginny Brace

Nature Notes for 7/14/2013