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A deciduous tree up to 100 ft high; but rarely one-fourth as high in this country, bushy-headed. It has a rugged trunk covered with small squarish plates of thick bark; young shoots glabrous. Leaves 21⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. wide, scarcely as long, maple-like, five-lobed, the lobes oblong and reaching half or two-thirds of the depth of the blade, coarsely toothed or even lobed again, especially the three upper ones, the margins set with fine glandular teeth, quite glabrous on both surfaces; stalk 1 to 2 in. long. Flowers (rarely or never seen in Britain) greenish, produced in globose heads from the terminal part of the shoot with the young leaves in spring. Seed-vessels woody, in a rounded cluster 1 in. across.
Native of Asia Minor; introduced about 1750. Fine specimens are to be found on the continent, the best I have seen being in the Bologna Botanic Garden – 90 to 100 ft high, and 5 ft in diameter of trunk. In Britain it is an interesting small tree, growing very slowly. It is quite hardy, but coming from one of the hottest parts of the Levant it lacks in this country the sunshine necessary for its complete development. From the inner bark of this tree the soft, viscid, balsamic resin known as ‘liquid storax’ is obtained. This substance has certain medicinal properties of reputed value in bronchial affections, and is said to form part of the popular preparation known as ‘friar’s balsam’.
There are no specimens of any note to be recorded. A small, bushy tree at Kew was 10 ft high in 1884; twenty-four years later it was 15 ft high; today it measures 25 × 43⁄4 ft at 6 ft (1965). Others are: Whiteknights, Reading, 13 × 21⁄2 ft (1962) and Westonbirt, Glos., in Morley Drive, 12 × 2 ft (1965), with girths measured at 4 ft. A tree at Woburn Abbey, probably bought from Loddiges’ nursery in 1838, is figured in New Flora and Sylva, Vol. 1, fig. lii (P. 173).
This species also occurs on the island of Rhodes. The example at Kew, the largest recorded, measures 30 × 5 ft (1984). There are smaller specimens in Battersea Park, London; Westonbirt, Glos.; Whiteknights, Reading; and Bodnant, Gwyn.