The Versatile Sourwood

by Peter Gordon, Elachee Director of Education

What do ancient Native Americans and bees have in common? Their love of the Sourwood tree.

One of the most interesting trees in the northeast Georgia forest is the Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum).One of the most interesting trees in the northeast Georgia forest is the Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum).  Its flowers take on the look of fingers hovering over a piano keyboard. We are highlighting this species now because of recent blooming season that began in mid-June. 

If you are not certain you can identify the tree, let the contented hum of foraging honey bees give you a clue. The insects can’t resist the nectar. Plus, the honey these bees make from it is considered, by many, to be the best in the world.

The tree gets its name from the acidic taste of its leaves. Many a hiker has slaked a thirst by chewing on a Sourwood leaf on a hot summer day. Another interesting characteristic of Sourwoods are that they are the most crooked trees in the forest.

Another interesting characteristic of Sourwoods are that they are the most crooked trees in the forest. Their twisting and turning trunks appear to be formed from playdough-pulling hands. However, they’re also historically significant. Since individual limbs can grow so vertically straight from the tree, the Cherokee sought out the Sourwood as a source of wood for the tribe’s arrows. 

Elachee Tree Sale & Festival

If you plan on adding a new tree or shrub to your landscape this fall, be sure to mark your calendar for Elachee’s 2017 Tree Sale & Festival planned for Saturday, October 21 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. DETAILS

Blooming Sourwood Tree Photo Courtesy of Jeffery Pippen, www.jeffpippen.com.