LABURNUM (GOLDEN CHAIN)
There aren't many Laburnum trees around Exeter - at least not in public green spaces and parks. The main reason for this is all parts of the tree are poisonous. Typically you will see these lovely little trees in private gardens. As they remain a small tree throughout their life they are well suited as a feature tree in the middle of a lawn. Laburnum was introduced into the UK in 1560 and became a popular choice of tree up until thr 1970's. Due to several poisonings (mainly young people) Laburnum soon developed a bad reputation and many people removed thier trees. As it turns out Laburnum isn't as toxic as people originally thought (in comparison to Common Yew, Deadly Nightshade or Hemlock). In the right place this little tree can make a big impact with it's beautiful show of bright yellow flowers and it's interesting clover shaped leaves. Bees and other insect pollinators love the flowers as well.
Laburnum is deciduous tree and typically remains as a small tree throughout it's life. The typical lifespan is up to 50 years. They are native to the mountains of southern Europe from France to the Balkans but do very well in the UK - particularly the South West. After 15 years the tree is considered as being fully mature and should have flowered and procuded seeds several times. Laburnum is also known as the Golden Chain tree due to the long yellow chains of flowers. It is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae) and the young seed pods do resemble the typical pea like pods.
The bark is fairly smooth even on older trees. Up close the bark has a greenish hue and the lenticles are like small orange coloured diamonds making it a very attractive bark. The branches and twigs are very knobbly and from a distance look a bit like wiggly worms! The buds are very pretty and covered in soft white hairs. The leaves are very unusual and add even more interest to this lovely little tree. They are trifoliate which means 3 leaflets per leaf and look a bit like clover leaves. The leaves are a dull green from May to August and during the Autumn they mainly fade to yellow. At the right time you can see the green veins amongst the yellow leaves and this is very pretty.
Laburmum typically doesn't exceed 7 metres in height and requires very little maintenance
During May the bright yellow flowers are in full bloom. The type of flowers are called a racemes
The flowers of Laburnum are the main talking point of this tree and for very good reason. For a good 3 - 4 weeks they will transform the landscape with an explosion of yellow dangling flowers called racemes. The best time to see Laburnum in flower is usually late April through to May. The flowers are pollinated by insects and on a hot summers day they will be covered by many types of bees and flies. The yellow flowers mature into green seed pods and these eventually turn into hard seed pods. The seeds are considered the most toxic part of the tree - mainly because of how easy they are to eat,
OTHER USEFUL LINKS
- Laburnum was introduced into the UK in 1560
- They are native to the mountains of southern Europe from France to the Balkans
- All parts of the tree are poisonous
- Children and pets are at most risk of poisoning - mainly from eating the fallen seeds
- Although it has a bad name for being very poisonous it is not as toxic as originally thought
- The main toxin inside Laburnum is called cytisine
- Symptoms of laburnum poisoning may include intense sleepiness, vomiting, convulsive movements, coma, slight frothing at the mouth and unequally dilated pupils
- Laburnum wood should not be burned as the smoke produced is also toxic
- Laburnum should not be planted directly above or next to ponds as the the seed / leaf drop may poison the water
- They are a fairly short lived species of tree - typically around 50 years
- They usually grow up to 7m in height making them a very good tree for small gardens
- The caterpillars of buff tip feed on the leaves of Laburnum
- The heartwood of Laburnum is very dark and the sapwood is very light
- The heart-wood of a laburnum may be used as a substitute for ebony or rosewood
- Laburnum has historically been used for cabinetmaking and inlay, as well as for musical instruments
- It was a popular wood for the Great Highland Bagpipes
- The flowers are pollinated by insects
- The leaves are trifoliate and each leaflet is about 3cm to 8cm long
- The seedpods usually contain up to 10 seeds and are classed as the most toxic part of the tree
PLEASE LEAF ME ANY FEEDBACK / COMMENTS
If there is anything out of place or wrong please contact me. Equally if there is anything you wish to add please let me know. The more information we have about this tree the better. Many thanks!