The Scoop on Sourwood: The Tree and the Honey

The Scoop on Sourwood: The Tree and the Honey

Sourwood honey is considered an Appalachian treat, but what about this light honey and gorgeous tree makes it so special to our mountains and piedmonts? Learn more about the sorrel tree and find local WNC sourwood for sale.

What is Sourwood Honey?

Sourwood honey is a monofloral honey made by honeybees from the nectar of the sourwood tree blossoms. 


The Sourwood is a tree native to the southeastern United States. Known as Oxydendrum arboreum and by common names lily-of-the-valley tree or sorrel tree, sourwood grows at its tallest and most profusely in the southern regions of Appalachia, in areas like East Tennessee, northern Georgia, and here where we are, in western North Carolina.


The beautiful tree is prized for more than its use as a honey source. It has been popularized as a landscaping tree due to its striking appearance across the seasons. Sourwood trees usually bloom sometime between late June and early August, although those bloom dates can vary depending on the tree's altitude and the ambient temperature.


The robust blooms look like long, white fingers and are so full of nectar that it drips from the fingertips! In autumn, the leaves turn a brilliant scarlet and the flowers become white berries that stand out against the yellow and brown landscape.


What is the big deal about Sourwood honey?

Sourwood honey is the star of Appalachia! It is highly sought-after by visitors to the area and often given as gifts from locals to their guests. Some years it is relatively scarce to find sourwood honey since the size of the honey harvest depends on the weather and the temperature shifts that are common in late spring and early summer in southern Appalachia.

Bees LOVE sourwood and will work to collect pollen and nectar exclusively from that source if they can. Diligent beekeepers pay attention to the timing of the nectar flow to add supers and collect the mono-floral sourwood honey for later extraction and bottling. Nailing a monofloral honey flow can be tricky as other common plants flower during the same period - basswood (linden), clover, sumac, and dandelion. 


What does Sourwood honey taste like?

Sourwood produces light amber honey with a smooth, buttery flavor with caramel notes. It is very sweet - we often describe it as confectionary when handing out samples at our tasting bar. It brings a bright spot to a charcuterie board, pairing especially well with smoked meats and salted nuts. 

Honey & the Hive carries Sourwood honey for sale from beekeepers across western NC. Visit our Weaverville storefront to taste before you buy, or shop online:


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