Storax trees are fragrant deciduous small trees or large bushes that grow in mild and sheltered areas. The tree is named for the Hebrew word "stacte" (meaning "liquid drop") because of the tree's sap or gum produced from its bark. In addition to being used as a landscape tree, the storax provides medicinal benefits. The tree's sap can be used as an expectorant. Its leaves are useful in treating diarrhea and relieving sore throats.
Storax trees (Liquidambar orientalis), also called Oriental sweetgum or Turkish sweetgum, have five-lobed alternate divided leaves and a purplish-gray bark. The tree's yellow flowers are monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are on the same plant.
Size and Time Frame
The typical storax tree is about 40 feet tall or higher and has numerous branches with leaves that are 2 to 3 feet long. Storax trees grow slowly and have a broad, conical-shaped head. In autumn storax leaves have a reddish or orange tint. Older twigs develop a corky bark. The storax tree starts to flower in April and continues blooming through June. Fruit first starts to appear in September.
The first storax trees came from Provence, France. They're also natives of Italy, the Middle East, Greece and some regions of Turkey. Although it fails to yield gum in Turkey, in hotter climates (such as Cyprus) it thrives.
Soil for planting storax trees should be well-drained, yet moist. Most of these trees do well with about 1 inch of water each week. Compost also helps enhance texture, water retention or draining capacity. The Back Yard Gardener recommends a 3-inch layer of mulch for keeping soil moist.
Leaf spot, a fungal disease, is the main disease that afflicts storax trees. Signs of the fungus are black or brown patches that are circular or ragged, with yellow edges on leaves that are water-soaked. This disease is easily spread by rain, insects and dirty garden tools. Control involves removing all infected leaves from a dry plant, including any leaves found at the plant's base. Fungicides are recommended for fungal leaf spots.
Although many storax trees do fine in less than full sun, they may produce less flowers or weaker foliage with less sunlight. Southern and western building sites are typically the sunniest, but when buildings or houses are too close together, shadows from neighboring properties can reduce sunlight.