arboreum (L.) DC)
is found scattered throughout the state on both rich and poor
soils but is least abundant in the low alluvial parts of the state.
It is a small tree, 8 to 12 inches in diameter and 30 to 40 feet
tall, but rarely taller.
The bark is thin, light gray and divided into narrow shallow ridges.
On the strong, straight, first-year shoots, sourwood bark often
is bright red. The twigs lack terminal buds.
Sourwood leaves are 3 to 6 inches long, simple, alternate, very
acidic to the taste (oxalic acid). They are often rough with solitary,
stiff hairs. The leaves are a shiny green on the upper surface
and usually turn a deep crimson in the fall.
The flowers, which appear in early summer, are small, white or
cream-colored and are borne in particles of 5 to 10 inches long
on the ends of the twigs. (See the foreward for an illustration
of particles.) Bees use the flower's nectar to make rich-colored
honey which is widely enjoyed throughout the state.
Sourwood fruit is a conical, dry capsule, 1/3 to 1/2 inch long
that contains many small seeds. These capsules hang in drooping
clusters sometimes a foot long, often persisting late into the
The wood is heavy, hard, very close-grained and compact. It is
brown, sometimes tinged with red. Sourwood is seldom considered
a commercial wood. It is sometimes used for turnery, handles,
pulp and other items.