News and Blog Articles
News and Blog Articles
Sourwoods, scientifically called Oxydendrum arboretum, are native to North Carolina, but can be found today all throughout the southeast. The common name for this species comes from the sour taste of the leaves and sap. Other names for the sourwood include the sorrel tree, sorrel gum, sour gum, arrow wood, elk tree, and lily-of-the-valley tree.
This last name comes from the fragrant white flowers the tree produces in early summer. The bell-shaped blooms dangle from drooping stalks and very much resemble lilies-of-the-valley, though the two aren’t actually related. Each flower yields an oval-shaped fruit less than half-an-inch in diameter. The fruits in turn yield dual-winged seeds that float away on the wind.
Sourwood flowers stand in stark contrast to the tree’s oblong, dark-green leaves. Each leaf spans 4 to 8 inches in length and features fine toothing along the edges. They grow in an alternating pattern, and often remind onlookers of laurel.
The color doesn’t end with summer, though. Sourwoods also offer a showy display of fall foliage when the weather cools that can include crimson, burnt orange, purple-red, and even golden yellow. In the months between autumn and spring, sourwoods still offer visual appeal with their ridged, reddish-brown bark.
In addition to their ornamental value, sourwood trees grow fairly quickly, and can add up to 2 feet of height per year until they reach maturity. Once fully-grown, the sourwood’s trunk can average 8 to 12 inches in diameter. Wild trees in their native habitat can reach heights up to 60 feet, and crown spreads of nearly 100 feet. However, when grown domestically, they top out around 25 to 30 feet tall with a crown spread of 20 feet. This makes them ideal additions to backyards, parking lots, city sidewalks, public parks, and more.
Sourwoods are also an ideal choice for landscaping thanks to their tolerance. They can grow in most kinds of soil, so long as it’s well-drained, and can handle moderate droughts. The only caveat to keep in mind is their sun requirement: sourwoods prefer full sun exposure, which means at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.
If you are considering adding a sourwood to your property, remember that these trees are incredibly long-lived, with average lifespans between 100 and 200 years.
Emily Casuccio is sister and sister-in-law to Rebekah and Scott Rushing, and has over half a decade of experience in copywriting, copyediting, proofreading, and developmental storyboarding. She's worked with both published and undiscovered authors on both fiction and nonfiction, and takes pride in supporting local businesses. Her passion lies in the written word and helping authors of all capacities realize their dreams and achieve their fullest potential. To learn more about her, read samples of her work, or contact her, visit her online portfolio.