Oxydendrum arboreum

Sourwood, Sorrel Tree, Lily-of-the-Valley Tree

Ox-ih-den-dron ar-BOR-ee-um
Pronunciation Audio

Pennsylvania west to Indiana and south to Florida.

Growth Habit

An upright oval or pyramidal tree growing to 30'-40' in height under landscape conditions. Slow to medium growth rate.


Requires a loose, well-drained acidic soil and adequate moisture. Will grow in full sun and partial shade Often found on shallow rocky slopes in its native habitat. This plant requires very specific conditions and will die if the conditions are not correct. I am on my fifth plant in an attempt to grow it well.

Facultative Status
Facultative Upland
Landscape Use

Oxydendrum arboeum is truly an all season ornamental. It is a pyramidal tree with a rounded crown. Average height is 20-30 feet. Leaves are alternate, simple, ellptic-oblong to oblong-lanceolate, pale to lustrous dark green in the summer and stunning colors of red, purple and yellow in the fall, often of the same plant. Flowers are white, urn-shaped, 1/4" long, fragrant, and emerge in late June-early July in pendulous racemose-panicles. Flowers are often produced in abundance so that the tree resembles a bridal veil. Fruits are dehiscent, 5-valved capsules that emerge in the fall and persist through the winter. Oxydendrum makes an excellent specimen tree and is quite effective in small groupings with an evergreen background behind them. It is native to the eastern United States.


Iridescent green in the spring and lustrous dark green in summer. Alternate, simple, 3"-7", oblong to oblong-lanceolate Acuminate apex.:Yellow, red and purple often on the same tree.


Buds are small and inconspicuous. The remnants of the inflorescence remain onûthe plant through the winter providing an excellent identification characteristic.


Bark is gray-brown at maturity divided into small, blocky ridges.:Young stems are green, developing a red coloration in summer and fall.


White, perfect, urn-shaped, .25 inches long, fragrant, June to early July in 4 to 10 inches long and wide, drooping, racemose-panicles.


Small (.25 inch) capsule persistent on the peduncle of the inflorescence.


Place seed on a peat medium in flats under mist until they germinate. Then move the seedlings under fluorescent light. Plants have been successfully grown via tissue culture.

None serious.

'Albomarginatum' - White leaf margins plus white marbling on most leaves.

'Chameleon' - Upright conical habit, changing fall color from yellow, rose, red to purple.

'Mt. Charm' - Symmetrical grower with early fall color.