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The Laburnum

UK Garden Centre - Information about the Laburnum tree

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Family Leguminosae
Laburnum anagyroides

Although the Laburnums of our parks and gardens have all come from seed, and themselves produce an abundance of it, we do not meet with wayside “escapees” as we might expect to, having regard to the habit of the tree, and the fact that it is comparatively indifferent respecting character of soil. It has been stated that rabbits are exceedingly fond of the bark, and it may well be that they destroy any young trees that are unprotected.
The tree produces such a glorification of many an ordinary suburban road, when its flowering time comes round, that it would be interesting to note its effect as a common object of the hillside and the woodland, against a background furnished by our more sober native trees.
The Laburnum is at home in the mountain forests of Central and Southern Europe, but there is no record of its introduction to Britain. We do know, however, that it has been with us for considerably more than four hundred years, as it was referred to in a publication of 1597.
It belongs to the great Pea and Bean family (Leguminosae), and is very closely related to the Common Broom, whose solitary flowers those of the Laburnum’s drooping racemes nearly resemble.
Ordinarily it is only a low tree about twenty feet in height, but in favourable situations it may attain to thirty feet or more. Some of the larger Laburnums, however, are of a distinct species (L. alpinum).
The pale round branches are clothed with leaves that are divided into three oval lance-shaped leaflets, covered on the underside with silvery down. Both leaves and golden flowers appear simultaneously in May, but from the fact that the flowers are gathered into numerous long pendulous racemes, their blaze of colour makes the leaves almost invisible.
The flowers are succeeded by long downy pods, like those of the Bean and Pea, containing many seeds, which are of a dangerously violent emetic character when introduced to the human stomach.
The dark wood is of a coarse grain; but, in spite of this, hard and enduring, and taking a good polish. It is chiefly used by musical instrument makers, wood turners, and cabinet-makers.
Common local names are Golden Chain, suggested by the strings of flowers, and Bean-trefoil and Pea-tree, having reference to the leaves and seed-pods respectively.


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