Improvement status: Unknown
Seeds per packet: ~30
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Perennial
Golden chain tree (also called common laburnum or golden rain tree) is an unforgettable European leguminous tree. Once you see one, you can't help but want it in your life. That actually happened to EFN co-founder Nate Kleinman when he was a small child — and his indulgent parents eventually made his little dreams come true by planting one in their front yard in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. What makes the tree so spectacular are its long racemes of yellow sweet-pea-like flowers with a splash of red in the center of their upper lips. They resemble locust flowers and wisteria flowers, but in a gleaming yellow that marks laburnum as something else entirely.
But it's not just beautiful! While no part of the plant is edible (and the small seeds contain poisonous alkaloids), the wood is hard and heavy with a beautiful yellow/brown color that darkens with age. It's idea for fenceposts, woodturning, or even burning as fuel (but it's hard to imaging even considering burning it unless a tree dies naturally first). The tree is also sometimes known as "false ebony", since the wood from very old individuals can be used in place of ebony. Archers confirm it makes excellent bows. The wood is in high demand for making instruments and furniture, particularly when strength and smoothness are important.
As a legume, it can fix its own nitrogen too!
Our seed was imported from Bulgaria by the good folks at Sheffield's Seed Company in Locke, NY.
GROWING TIPS: Hardy to Zone 5. Requires well-drained soil, but can handle sandy, loamy, and clay soils. Prefers full sun or part-shade. Tolerates high winds, but not maritime exposure. A good street tree.
Seeds require scarification (but not stratification): pour boiling water over seed then soak; repeat process on seeds that don't imbibe; seed coat may require filing or sanding to allow water infiltration (sulfuric acid may also be used). Sow seed 1/4" deep. Keep young plants well mulched and weeded.
Photos are in the public domain, except for the heartwood image (which may be closely related Laburnum alpinum), which is by Per Grunnet of Norway and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.