Oxydendrum arboreum - (Linnaeus) A.P. de Candolle
Ericaceae (Heath) Family
Plant is a tree with conical or rounded crown of spreading branches, clusters of flowers recalling Lily-Of-The-Valley, and glossy foliage that turns red in autumn. Preferred habitat is moist places, valleys or uplands with oak and pine forests. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.
Leaves are four to six inches long; about two inches wide; elliptical or lance-shaped, finely saw-toothed; sour taste; shiny yellow-green above, pale and slightly hairy beneath along veins; closed inward.
Flowers are hanging downward on short stalks and all on one side; urn-shaped and in white drooping clusters in a reverse arch. Seeds are egg-shaped capsules that split along five lines dispersing many small nutlets. Flowers occur in early summer.
Fruit is a capsule.
Sourwood is an attractive ornamental throughout the year. Both the genus name (sour tree) and the common name refer to the acid taste of the foliage, although Sourwood honey is esteemed. Abundant in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Sap is collected and cooked into a fine syrup comparable to maple.