Other names for this tree is Sorrel Tree, Lily of the Valley Tree, and Elk Tree. Sourwood is named for its sour tasting leaves. It can be found on the ridges and banks along streams and rivers. This tree rarely lives beyond 80 years and there is only one species of Sourwood. It’s leaves turn orange, scarlet and purple in the fall.
The flowers are bell shaped, white and hang from the end of the branches in clusters in June and July. The flowers attract honeybees and many people love the taste of Sourwood honey. In the wild you can often find Sourwood with a crook in the trunk because it twists trying to find light through a forest canopy.
It takes 15 ears to grow to a height of 15 feet. It likes well drained, moist slightly acidic soils in full sun to part shade. Sourwood has a reputation as hard to transplant because it has a deep root system and you need to get all of it to be successful.
The Cherokee used the leaves as seasoning in soups. They also used a tea from the leaves to treat diarrhea, asthma, TB, lung disease and anxiety. The Cherokee would chew the bark to treat ulcers and the sap was used to treat itching. The honey was a treat as well.