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Sourwood is a small slow-growing tree although forest specimens exceed this small status. This species is certainly worthy to be a specimen plant (sufficient attributes to be featured as a focal point). Sourwood has beautiful lustrous foliage in the growing season which turns a bright maroon to pink-red in the fall. In June/July it has delicate 8-inch-long somewhat pendulous white flower clusters that persist for about three weeks. Tan seedpods are somewhat showy and persist into the winter. Bark on mature trees is gray and blocky, and to those initiated in the bark appreciation sect, is quite handsome. Mature trees will also have an irregular somewhat contorted form which also adds to its beauty. Despite its grace and beauty, sourwood trees are notorious for being difficult to establish in landscapes. If you plant ten trees, four or five will die and half of the survivors will be unthrifty.
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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
February 27, 2012