Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)

A few tens of meters west of the NW corner of Carver Gym Map

This small tree (in 2013) looks like a shrub and is easy to miss. It has long pointed leaves that in the fall turn a brilliant scarlet. Our tree is currently a vigorous sapling perhaps 3 ft. tall, and thus a long way from attaining its eventual splendor of 30-65 feet tall. Jacobson describes it as a tree "of supreme elegance and ornamental value". Summer flowers are white, born on spikes that tend to protrude from the leaf canopy.

It is renowned for nectar and for the honey which is produced from it. Juice from its blooms is used to make sourwood jelly. The leaves are also a laxative. The shoots were used by the Cherokee and the Catawba to make arrow shafts.

Experts seem to differ on the ideal growing conditions. All agree that it likes acid soil and detests air pollution. However, there is a difference of opinion about whether it prefers sun or shade, wet or dry. Our little tree may get enough sunshine, but it is unlikely to spend much time completely dry. We shall see.

Botanically it is a near relative of the madrona and rhododendrons.