Dumbarton House Featured Flora: Japanese Snowbell

Written by: Kathy Clare, Garden Volunteer

Styrax japonicus

Japanese Snowbell is native to China and Japan. It is a graceful, compact, deciduous flowering tree that grows to 20-30 feet tall with horizontal branching and a rounded crown. After the leaves have developed, pendulous clusters of white bell-shaped flowers with soft yellow centers and a light fragrance hang on short stems below the branches in May and June. Each flower has 5 petals that curve upwards and is ¾ of an inch wide. Flowers give rise to small greenish-brown, olive-shaped drupes that persist into the fall. The dark green simple 2-3 inch oval leaves with finely toothed margins have insignificant fall color but sometimes turn yellow and red. The gray bark with fissures on older branches reveals an orange inner bark that can be attractive in winter.

Styrax prefers a sunny location in moist, slightly acidic, well-drained soil. They need regular moisture and protection from the winter wind.