The Sourwood or Sorrel tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) may be either classified as a shrub or tree. It is native to the Eastern United States, often found in rocky areas of the Appalachian mountains. The finely toothed leaves have a sharp acidy taste and look like the leaves of garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), an edible garden plant or herb. The lily-of-the-valley type white flowers bloom in early summer, are slightly fragrant and attract bees which are renowned for the honey they produce. They turn dark red in the fall. The bark is gray, fissured, ridged, and scaly. The wood of this tree is shock-resistant and has a straight grain. It has been used as wood bearings and for sled runners. Sourwood honey is a prized product. Genus name come from the Greek words oxy meaning acid and dendron meaning a tree.
Common name: Sourwood, Sorrel Tree
Scientific Name (family and order): Oxydendrum arboreum (Ericaceae, Ericales)
Species Origin: Eastern USA
New Jersey Status: USDA Unreported
Habit: Tree 20 – 50’ tall x 10 – 25’ wide.
Habitat: Zones 5 – 9
Trunk/Stem: Gray bark on mature trees is fissured, ridged and scaly. Twigs glabrous
Leaves: Deciduous, Simple, Alternate. Simple leaves 5 -8” lanceolate to elliptic, long reminiscent of peach leaves; margins finely toothed; leaves have a sour taste hence the common name. Leaves yield excellent fall colors turning a crimson red.
Flowers: Perfect. Flowers are showy and fragrant. Flowers present in a terminal panicle, 4 – 8” long in early summer. Corolla white, 5 – 8 mm long.
Fruits and seeds: Fruit a 5 –parted dry capsule, five-celled, that ripens to silver gray.