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Publication #ENH-763

Styrax japonicus: Japanese Snowbell1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

Japanese snowbell is a small deciduous tree that slowly grows from 20 to 30 feet in height and has rounded canopy with a horizontal branching pattern. With lower branches removed, it forms a more vase-shaped patio-sized shade tree. The smooth, attractive bark has orange-brown interlacing fissures adding winter interest to any landscape. The white, bell-shaped, drooping flower clusters of Japanese snowbell are quite showy in May to June.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Styrax japonicus: Japanese snowbell


Credit:

Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Styrax japonicus
Pronunciation: STY-racks juh-PAWN-ih-kuss
Common name(s): Japanese snowbell
Family: Styracaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 6A through 8A (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: trained as a standard; parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100-200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; specimen; street without sidewalk; deck or patio; container or planter; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); highway median; tree lawn 3-4 feet wide; tree lawn 4-6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; sidewalk cutout (tree pit)
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 20 to 30 feet
Spread: 15 to 25 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: round, vase
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: slow
Texture: medium

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: sinuate/undulate, entire, serrate
Leaf shape: oblong, elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: pinnate, brachidodrome
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches, 2 to 4 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: yellow, red
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: white/cream/gray
Flower characteristics: showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: oval, round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch, .5 to 1 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: green
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: green
Current year twig thickness: thin
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun, or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; slightly alkaline; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate

Other

Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: yes
Outstanding tree: yes
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: free of serious pests and diseases

Use and Management

Styrax species is an excellent small patio tree where the flowers and interesting bark can be viewed up close; however, the flowers attract tremendous numbers of bees and one should be cautious about approaching the plant at that time. Japanese snowbell also makes a wonderful addition to the mixed shrubbery border. Due to its small stature and vase-shape, it can make a nice street tree where overhead space is limited. The fruit is somewhat showy and may cause a small litter problem for a short time in the fall. Fall leaf color is unreliable.

Snowbell prefers a peaty, acid soil that is moist but not waterlogged. In colder areas (USDA hardiness zone 5), locate this tree in an area protected from winter winds. Plants grow better with a couple hours of shade in USDA hardiness zones 7 and 8 but full sun is fine in the North.

Cultivars include: 'Carillon'—hardy only to zone 6, grows about one-foot per year and has a weeping habit, can be staked to encourage weeping habit; 'Crystal'—upright to fastigiate habit, black green foliage, crisp white flowers with purple pedicels (zone 5); 'Issai'—cold hardy to zone 6, grows faster that species and roots easily; 'Pink Chimes'—pink flowers, cold hardy to zone 6.

Propagate by softwood cuttings in summer. Seeds eventually germinate but exhibit a double dormancy.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases of major concern. Ambrosia beetle can attack and lead to further decline of stressed plants.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH-763, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; and Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.