Plant of the Month July 2017

Snowflake Flower

Styrax japonica - Japanese snowball


Styrax japonica is native to the wide mountain forests of Japan, South Korea and Central China at an altitude of 400 to 1800 meters. The species comes from the Storax tree family (Styracaceae) and was first scientifically described in 1837 by Philipp Franz von Siebold and Joseph Gerhard Zuccarini. Styrax japonica was introduced to Europe by Richard Oldham (1837–1864) in 1862. Richard Oldham was employed at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and died at the early age of 27 from dysentery in China in 1864 on one of his botanical journeys which back then was considered very exhausting and harsh conditions. Oldham's travels were also marked by political unrest. The common name Styrax comes from Latin and referred to the Storax tree by the early Romans.

The enchanting shrub features tree-like growth with dense and fine branching. White, fragrant bell-shaped flowers cause a sensation from June to July. This filigree, fine-structured shrub is a true eye-catcher especially when placed in an area near a terrace or on the edge of a garden pond. The Japanese Storax tree is often used as an ornamental shrub because due to its decorative flowers and is also suitable for smaller gardens.

The new Styrax japonica variety 'Pink Chimes' features slower growth than the species. Its branches are full of numerous shell pink coloured, bell-shaped flowers with yellow stamens. The older the tree, the more abundant the flowers. The approximately 5-cm-long leaves are dark green and pointed on both sides. It cuts a fine figure even in the winter: it has a round crown with fan-shaped, curved overhanging branches and the interesting bark of older specimens is dark and has wide ridges between orange-coloured fissures. A protected, sunny to shady spot and a fresh, nutrient-rich, well-drained and slightly acidic soil are ideal.

A special highlight for the gardener is the variety Styrax japonica ‘Fragrant Fountaine’. The cascading, hanging growth and the lush dark green foliage is accompanied by a mass of fragrant, small, white flowers.

Styrax japonica ‘June Snow’, a new species from the Chris van der Wurff tree nursery in Heeze, Netherlands, truly lives up to its name with lots of hanging white flowers and a subtle scent.

Like snowflakes, the flowers fall to the ground when they cease to blossom and provide a touch of winter in the summer. This new variety is very rich in flowers, extraordinarily healthy and currently even cultivated commercially as a hybrid. Young plants are slightly sensitive to frost-sensitive and therefore require adequate protection in winter. With age, the plant loses it sensitivity to frost.