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Sourwood is a small tree or large shrub, growing to 10–20 m tall (30 to 65 feet) with a trunk up to 50 cm (20 inches) diameter. Occasionally on extremely productive sites, this species can reach heights in excess of 30 meters and 60 cm diameter. The leaves are spirally arranged, deciduous, 8–20 cm (3-8 inches) long and 4–9 cm (2.5 to 3.5 inches) broad, with a finely serrated margin; they are dark green in summer, but turn vivid red in fall. The flowers are white, bell-shaped, 6–9 mm ( 1/4 to 1/3 inch) long, produced on 15–25 cm (6-10 inches) long panicles. The fruit is a small woody capsule.The leaves can be chewed (but should not be swallowed) to help alleviate a dry-feeling mouth.
The roots are shallow, and the tree grows best when there is little root competition; it also requires acidic soils for successful growth.
The leaves can be chewed (but should not be swallowed) to help alleviate a dry-feeling mouth. The trunks of these trees also tend to grow at an angle, so that it looks like they are leaning. Not sure why, but it can help ID the tree.