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A deciduous tree, occasionally 50 to 70 ft high in the wild state, the slender trunk 1 to 11⁄2 ft in diameter. In this country it is occasionally 25 to 30 ft high, but is more often a tree-like shrub under 20 ft high; young shoots quite glabrous. Leaves alternate, oblong-lanceolate, with a long, tapering point, 4 to 8 in. long, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. wide, almost or quite glabrous, midrib sometimes bristly beneath, entire or minutely toothed, thin in texture, dark green, turning red in autumn; leaf-stalk 1⁄2 to 1 in. long. Flowers white, 1⁄4 in. long, cylindrical, but narrowing towards the mouth, borne in late summer or autumn in a lax panicle 6 to 10 in. long, composed of several slender racemes from the end of the shoot or the terminal leaf-axils; flower-stalks, calyx, and corolla downy, the two latter five-lobed; stamens ten, enclosed within the corolla. Fruit a dry, woody, five-celled capsule, many-seeded.
Native of eastern N. America; introduced in 1752. Belonging to the heath family, this tree thrives under the same conditions as azaleas and rhododendrons. It is usually propagated by seed obtained from the United States. The leaves have a pleasant acid taste, to which its popular and scientific names refer. A beautiful late-blooming tree, turning scarlet in autumn, provided it is not planted in too dense shade. It thrives well near London as the following measurements show: Osterley Park, London, 40 × 23⁄4 ft (1965); Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Wisley, Surrey, 42 × 23⁄4 ft (1964); Leonardslee, Sussex, 49 × 23⁄4 ft (1962); Borde Hill, Sussex, 48 × 2 ft (1968). There is a fine group in the Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey. In Eire there is an example at Fota, Co. Cork, measuring 42 × 41⁄4 ft (1966).