Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Meet The Sourwood Tree - Oxydendrum arboreum

The "Sourwood" Tree - Oxydendrum arboreum is very unique as it is the only species in it's genus. This genus is a part of the larger Ericaceae Family, which is commonly called the Heath or Heather Family. The Ericaceae family is made up of a very diverse group of plants including Heathers, Azaleas, Rhodedendrons and Madrones.

Image Citation: Richard Webb, Self-employed horticulurist, Bugwood.org 

The Sourwood has grey bark with deep lobes that almost make the bark appear chunky. The leaves are very finely toothed and a smooth grey-green in color during the growth season and a bright red, crimson or even purple in the fall. The leaves are arranged alternately and average 3-8 inches long. The flowers are white or ivory in color and bell shaped, they are very small only 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch each. The flowers though small on their own grow on 6-10 inch long panicles. The fruit are small downy, five sided/angled woody capsules that are ivory in color. The roots of the Sourwood are considered shallow, this tree grows best with little to no root competition. It prefers very acidic soil and will not tolerate . The wood of the Sourwood is heavy, hard and close grained. This type wood takes well to high gloss finish. Honey produced from the flowers of this tree is considered by many to be unmatched by clover, orange blossom, or any other honey.

Image Citation: Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.), Bugwood.org 

It is native to Eastern United States, ranging in the North from Pennsylvania and in the South from Western Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Northwest Florida. It is found most commonly in the lower chain of the Appalachian Mountain. Recommended for hardiness zones 5-9, this tree is a medium sized deciduous tree that makes for a lovely ornamental addition to any landscape. With a maximum height of 35-70 feet and a spread of 20 feet it's size allows it to fit in places where some other shade trees will not.

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