Trees of Alabama and the Southeast

Lisa Samuelson, Ph.D.
School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Auburn University

SOURWOOD
Oxydendrum arboreum
Ericaceae

Leaves are simple, alternate, deciduous and finely toothed with stiff hairs on the midrib and a sour taste. Twigs are zigzag and green to red, yellow, or brown. Buds are embedded. Bark is dark gray to black, blocky, and deeply grooved with red-orange bark inside the grooves. Flowers are white and bell-shaped forming drooping graceful clusters. Fruit is a capsule found in drooping clusters that persist into winter. Form is up to 24 m (80 ft) in height and 61 cm (2 ft) in diameter, and the trunk is often curved. Sourwood is found on a variety of sites in the eastern US. Shade tolerant. The hard wood is used for pulp and specialty items. Bees like the flowers (sourwood honey).

Photographs by Mike Hogan.

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