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Plants from the Ground Up

Laburnum – The Glorious Goldenchain Tree

I rejoice in late spring when the long clusters of lemon yellow pea-like flowers hang down like spectacular golden Wisteria blooms. The ‘golden chain’ that the blooms make creates a feeling of pure joy. There are few plants that can put on such a delightful show of color. Trifoliate, clover-like leaves are a lovely complement to the cheerful blossoms. Laburnum trees are native to the Mediterranean and central areas of Europe. These glorious specimens are easily grown in almost all soil types other than wet ground; they will not survive standing water, even short term. They perform best in permeable soils where their long roots can spread out. Goldenchain trees prefer to be sited in sun to part-shade. Shoots should be removed each spring as these trees tend to sucker. Caution should be taken when pruning Laburnum as the wood can rot in cuts where moisture settles. Another wonderful characteristic of these beautiful trees is their ability to fix their own nitrogen.

Laburnum waterer ‘Sunspire’

Laburnum waterer ‘Sunspire’

 

After the blooms fade, pea-like fruits appear in seed pods up to 2 inches long. The pods ripen to dark-brown in the fall. Care should be taken to remove the seeds in gardens where children play as all parts of this plant, particularly the seeds, are quite poisonous. Laburnums contain an alkaloid extract called cytisine. Interestingly, as with many “poisons”, cytisine can be used medicinally. It is showing promise as being a more effective way to wean people off of nicotine than the traditional patches or gum.

Laburnum watereri ‘Vossii’ - Pods

Laburnum watereri ‘Vossii’ – Pods

Goldenchain trees are deciduous and generally thrive in cooler areas without high summer heat and humidity. They are winter hardy to USDA zone 5.

 

Laburnum anagyroides

This small, low-branched, deciduous tree typically grows to 15-25 feet tall and can be encouraged to take a more shrub-like form or pruned into a more ‘standard’ tree form. The pretty and sweetly fragrant, golden wisteria-like racemes of this species are 4-8 inches long. The leaves of this species are a soft grey-green with a slight fuzzy underside.

Laburnum anagyroides GOLDENCHAIN TREE

Laburnum anagyroides

 

Laburnum watereri ‘Vossi’

This hybrid is a free-flowering cross between L. alpinum and L. anagyroides. It typically grows to 15-25 feet and makes a wonderful specimen tree which can also be espaliered. The scentless yellow flowers hang in racemes up to 24 inches long appearing in a profuse and outstanding, late-spring bloom. This hybrid usually produces a sparser crop of seedpods than its parents.

Laburnum watereri ‘Vossii’

Laburnum watereri ‘Vossii’

 

Laburnum watereri ‘Sunspire’

Another hybrid Goldenchain that is a columnar form 15-20 feet tall and 5-10 feet wide making it perfect for small gardens or as a striking accent plant. Bright-green leaves make a great back-drop for the lovely 8-12 inch yellow flower clusters.

Laburnum watereri ‘Sunspire’ GOLDENCHAIN TREE

Laburnum watereri ‘Sunspire’

 

Laburnum alpinum ‘Pendulum’

A wonderful weeping variety creates a 5-10 foot dome-shaped tree that is lovely year-round; especially so in late-spring when its long racemes of yellow flowers appear. Laburnum alpinum is graced with larger and more sweetly-scented blossoms.

For more photos and information, see Laburnum at the Forestfarm Store.

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