Graves, Arthur H. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, Connecticut.
Davis, Kenneth P. School of Forestry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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A deciduous tree, Oxydendrum arboreum, of the heath family, indigenous to the southeastern section of the United States, and found from Pennsylvania to Florida and west to Indiana and Louisiana. Sourwood is hardy and is often cultivated in the north. It is usually a small or medium-sized tree, but it sometimes attains a height of 75 ft (23 m) and a diameter of nearly 2 ft (0.6 m). The leaves (see illustration) are simple, finely toothed, long-pointed, and 4–8 in. (10–20 cm) in length, and have an acid taste, which explains the popular name. They turn scarlet in the autumn. The flowers are white and urn-shaped and grow in long clusters (see illustration). The dry fruit remains on the tree through the autumn and winter. The wood is not used commercially. The Janka hardness for sourwood is 940 lb-force (426 kg-force); its density is 45 lb/ft3 (721 kg/m3). Sourwood is also known as sorrel tree, and it is widely planted as an ornamental. See also: Ericales; Forest and forestry; Ornamental plants; Tree
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