By Phran Novelli
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – This is a good time of year to think about what I call ‘Patriotic Plants,’ those that are native to America and our area, like Oxydendrum arboreum, or Sourwood tree.
It begins blooming around the Fourth of July with inflorescences that sort of look like the fingers of fireworks to me – which then burst into chains of little white upside-down urn-shaped flowers, which is why people also call it ‘Lily of the Valley’ tree.
Blooming in summer, when few other trees do, sourwood flowers help the bees keep making honey for us.
The Sourwood tree has a lovely grey trunk with a pretty bark pattern, and a great growing habit, so it makes a nice specimen tree for shade in your yard. Most cultivars you’ll find to plant at home grow to about 30 feet high, although Oxydendrum can grow to double that height in the wild.
In autumn, Oxydendrum leaves turn an eye-popping scarlet red – the kind of color that makes people stop and stare and say ‘Ooooh’ and ‘Ahhhh’. Then, its sprays of seedpods hang on to decorate the tree throughout the winter, bringing some natural ‘fireworks’ to your yard from the Fourth of July through New Year’s.