Characteristics of European Styrax Tree (Styrax officinalis) in the Wild

Styrax officinalis
European styrax (Styrax officinalis) is a shrub species in the Styracaceae family. This species originates from Southern Europe and the Middle East. The tree prefers to grow on rocky slopes at altitudes up to 1,500 m above sea level.

The European styrax tree produces sap of ‘frankincense’, an herbal remedy that has been known since ancient times.

Ancient Myth: Some people believe that the oleoresin (semi-solid extract) European styrax tree is used together with the incense of Olibanum-tree (Boswellia sacra), galbanum, and onycha to make Ketoret (Incense offering in Judaism).

 

Characteristics of European Styrax Leaf

Styrax officinalis Leaf
Source : flickr.com/James Gaither

The leaves are elliptical, alternately arranged, very thin, 5-10 cm long and 3-6 cm wide.

 

Characteristics of European Styrax Flower

Styrax officinalis Flower
Source : flickr.com/John Winder

The flowers are axillary, white, fragrant, and about 2 cm long.

 

Characteristics of European Styrax Fruit

Styrax officinalis Fruit
Source : wikimedia.org/Denis.prévôt

The fruit is round, small, yellow, and 1-2 cm long.

 

Characteristics of European Styrax Tree

Styrax officinalis Tree
Source : wikimedia.org/Kenraiz

European styrax trees grow to form deciduous shrubs that can reach heights of 5-6 meters in the wild. The stem is reddish, with rather dark bark.

Current areas of natural distribution of European styrax trees include Italy (the Balkan Peninsula), Greece (Crete and Cyprus), Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey.

European styrax trees are found growing in secondary forests, bushes, and on dry land. The tree is quite strong and tolerant of various soils such as slightly acidic soils, alkaline soils, sandy soils, gravel soils, and loam soils. It thrives when it grows in the sun without any shade.

These European styrax trees are widely cultivated in areas including the Hardiness Zone 9-11 with tropical weather and moderate temperatures.

 

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