Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday's Trees- Sourwood

One week goes by so quickly, time to explore our tree. Today's tree is one I had heard of but never saw in the nurseries or garden centers. Sourwood, Oxydendrum arboreum. Last year in the Learning Garden one of the presentations we gave to a group of students included a bit on trees. Sourwood is indeed sour. Not recommending tasting things in the landscape, but this was really sour!
Sourwood is one of our native trees that grow in zones 5-9. A very adaptable tree, it can grow in sun to partial shade. We have some in the LG --they are in the wooded areas. Not easily transplanted it is a desired tree. At maturity typically is 20- 25 feet tall and given the room, 20 feet wide, though it can reach 50- 75 feet tall.

As you wander through the woods the first thing you notice is the interesting bark of this tree. Deep ridges are a bold feature of this tree.

Even on a young tree the beginnings of this interesting bark are getting mapped out.

Given the time of year I took these pictures I was not able to get one of the features of the Sourwood-- white panicles of blooms. These little flowers look like lily of the valley blooms. Bees love these blooms. Sourwood honey is a coveted variety of honey. After the blooms there are brown capsules, seed pods that hang on through the winter. Click here and see some great shots of the blooms in Fairegarden's garden. Thanks Frances!!

To me the leaves are another part of the tree that help me make that identification. The leaves are alternate, deep green, ovate, and large- according to Michael Dirr, 3-8 inches in length. The fall colors on this tree range from deep red to orange to yellow.

Do you have Oxydrendrum arboreum in your area? One certainly worth giving a second look.

Our Sourwood hasn't had a very good fall color for some reason, but here is a photo of the remaining color.

Next week-- Live Oak, Quercus virginiana


  1. Another tree I'm not familiar with! The bark is certainly eye-catching.

    Your hibiscus on your last post is gorgeous! At 10 feet tall, it must get a lot of notice in your garden.

  2. I learn something new on your blog everyweek. This is an unfamiliar tree to me too. Sounds like a great specimen for a garden though. :)

  3. The leaves are nice, but I love the bark! Live Oak is one of my faves, looking forward to that. H.

  4. Indeed, a beautiful tree, I love the ones that bloom.

  5. Most barks are eye catching. Like skins cracking up.

    We are lucky to have skins able to make adjustment as we grow up, containing the growing flesh and bones with having to crack up.... haha.

    Cheers Queen Janet
    ~ bangchik

  6. Hi Rose, Maybe you will see a Sourwood near your home, now that you know about it...maybe? The hibiscus is crazy tall!!

    Racquel, hi there. So glad you learned a little bit. I am learning to be very observant... noticing small details.

    Hi Helen, yes the bark is really incredible. Stay tuned for a great tree next week.

    Hi Dawn, I found in my reading that some call this Lily of the Valley tree. The blooms are nice.

    Bangchik, you crack me up.!>!>! yes, my aged skin is growing with me. ;-) hahaha

  7. I love this tree but we haven't the climate/soil/ or what ever it wants to keep it happy! it seems happier in higher elevations with acid soil! gail

  8. Sourwood is one of my favorite trees. It certainly blooms late which is a bonus.

    One thing I have learned is to buy your Sourwood in fall color. It seems to vary on some specimens.

  9. Neat! I love the bark too. Definitely a tree that would be great for year around interest.

  10. Hi Gail, I wonder why it isn't happy there?

    Hi Digital Flower- Another new fact! Thanks! Will keep that in mind.

    Hi Kathleen, it is certainly an interesting tree.

  11. Yes, but I don't know where they are. If you have them then we do too.

    There is a dang dog barking---since you are speaking of bark. I'm worried about him and annoyed. It's such a nice morning except for that little yapping pitiful thing. I'm going out on the porch and see why he is so distressed. I'd hate to be sitting here doing nothing and then find out a Sourwood tree fell on him or something --you know?

  12. Anna, You nut!! Sourwood falling on him. hahahahaaa

  13. Hi Janet, we have a young, about five years old Sourwood and it is blooming now with those white panicles. We bought it for the fabulous fall color but were so happy to find it grows very narrow so is perfect for a small garden crowded with choice plants. A good neighbor. It is about 15 feet high now. It was in a 5 gallon container and was two feet tall when we bought it at the Biltmore in Asheville. It is a fast grower too. Love everything about it and didn't know about the bark interest, will have to watch for it.

  14. We have several seedling Sourwoods next to the driveway, offspring of the Sourwood on my neighbor's hilltop. I love the flowers. Some of the leaves are turning red already.

  15. Hi, Janet-
    Sourwoods are totally wonderful native trees in the Southeast, although they are a bit fussy about site, and subject to various insects.

    Their fall color, lovely summer flowers, etc. make them well worth adding to a garden landscape.



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