The latest thinking on ecological landscapes. Useful tips to improve our environment

Kim Eierman

Kim Eierman

Founder of EcoBeneficial!

Available for virtual and in-person landscape consulting, talks and classes.

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Your Favorite Native Plants: The Bee-licious Sourwood Tree

Our fourth winning entry to the “What’s Your Favorite Native Plant?” contest comes from Missy Isaacs:

My favorite native plant is: “ Sourwood tree. Beautiful fall color, blooms in the summer, my honeybees love the pollen, and the blooms remind me of my handicapped cousin’s hands, she has the most delicate and graceful hands but because of her cp, they are clinched tightly when she is awake. When she is relaxed, her hands release and she has the sweetest hands ever and the sourwood’s bloom remind me of her sweet little hands.”

Oxydendron arboreum is known as Sourwood or Sorrel Tree and is an ericaceous plant, a member of the heath family along with rhododendrons, blueberries, huckleberries, azaleas and other acid-loving plants. Sourwood lives happily in acidic, well-drained soil from Pennsylvania south to Florida and west to Indiana in zones 5 to 9.

The tree gets its name from its sour-tasting leaves (in Greek “oxys” means sour and “Dendron” means tree). What Sourwood lacks in stature (often no taller than 30 to 40 feet), it makes up for in bloom, with delicate, creamy white sprays of blueberry-like flowers in the summer. If you are lucky enough to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in July, you cannot miss Sourwood in bloom growing impossibly out of rocky outcrops by the roadside.

Bees absolutely love this tree; they set upon the flowers as soon as they sense that nectar is available. Both native bees and honey bees are huge fans, with honey bees producing luscious honey, often sold as the prized monofloral Sourwood honey.

In the fall, Sourwood gives us another reward with its beautiful red color and tasty seed capsules for the birds. Like so many of our native trees, Sourwood is beautiful in both form and function.

Happy Memorial Day weekend from Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!

Photo: Oxydendron arboreum (Sourwood)

Photo credit: Flickr/Martin La Bar

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