The Sourwood or Sorrel Tree, takes its name from the sharp acid taste of its leaves and sap. Native to the Appalachians, Sourwood is found from Northeastern Florida, to Southern Pennsylvania. It can be planted, however, in USDA Zones 5 to 9 in moist well-drained acid soils.
Tiny, creamy white, urn-shaped flowers appear in late June and last into August. Borne In compound clusters about 7 to 10 inches long, it is one of few native trees to flower in summer. The numerous, fragrant flowers are a favorite of bees, which make a Sourwood honey, an Appalachian treat.
Fall color starts as early as late August and lasts until November. The brilliant red or scarlet leaves are made even more spectacular by the contrast of the persisting flowers.
A slow grower and generally considered a small tree at 25 to 30 feet, it can attain 50 feet or more in the wild. Full sun is preferred for best flowering and fall color, but it will grow well in partial shade. It is sensitive to transplanting, cold injury when young, and is intolerant of pollution. Established plants, however, endure drought well and have no serious pests or diseases. An excellent specimen tree for patios and gardens, the Sourwood is perhaps our finest native flowering tree.