Virginia Tech Dendrology

sourwood Ericaceae Oxydendrum arboreum (L.) DC. Listen to the Latin play symbol: OXAR
Leaf: Alternate, simple, elliptical to lanceolate, 4 to 7 inches long, very finely serrate to ciliate, very slight pubescence on the mid-vein below, green above and paler below. A sour taste is obvious when the leaf is chewed
Flower: Species is monoecious; white, 1/4 inch long, urn-shaped, borne on drooping panicles, reminiscent of lily-of-the-valley flowers, appear in mid-summer.
Fruit: Dehiscent, 5-valved capsules borne on panicles. Capsules are dry when mature in fall and release the very tiny, 2-winged seeds.
Twig: Olive green, changing to red, with buds that are small, round and oppressed (almost absent); leaf scars are elevated with one bundle scar.
Bark: Grayish brown, very thick with deep furrows and scaly ridges; often the ridges are broken into recognizable rectangles.
Form: A small tree maybe up to 60 feet tall, usually with poor form with crooked branches and an irregular crown.
Looks like: blackgum - downy serviceberry - black cherry - common persimmon
leaf flower fruit twig bark form1 map
Additional Range Information: Oxydendrum arboreum is native to North America. Range may be expanded by planting. See states reporting sourwood.
More Information: Fall Color
External Links: USDAFS Silvics of North America - USDAFS Additional Silvics - USDA Plants Database - Horticulture Information - USDAFS Forest Products Lab
All material © 2017 Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Photos and text by: John Seiler, Edward Jensen, Alex Niemiera, and John Peterson