Oxydendrum arboreum

Family: Ericaceae

Leaf Type: Deciduous

Mature Height: ~15 m (~50 ft)

Fall Color: Orange to scarlet red

Native Range: Sourwoods have native range throughout much of the southeastern United States.



The leaves of sourwoods are long ovals, about six inches in length. They are finely toothed along the edges and have a much paler underleaf. The leaves turn a bright orange to scarlet orange color in the fall. True to the name of the tree, the leaves are very acidic and have a sour taste. Sourwoods have fruits that appear as small, gray capsules that stand upright along slender spikes. The flowers are small and white and are along twig-like clusters known as racemes which are called “angel fingers.” We recommend not sampling the fruits & nuts of the trees and plants here at Adventure Science Center. The bark of sourwoods is gray tinged with red and has rugged furrows.


Fun Facts

● The shoots, or the above-ground portion of a tree that bears leaves, were used to make arrow shafts by Native Americans.
● A native tree of North America, the sourwood is one of the few endemic trees that is not found in other continents unless planted and has no related species.

Did you know that trees provide homes for animals, keep us cool and clean our air? Click here to learn more about the benefits that trees provide to us and our world.

This site has a rich human history, including the story of the Bass Street Community, one of the first Free Black neighborhoods in Nashville. Click here to learn more about St. Cloud Hill and its many inhabitants over the years.

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