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Scottish Laburnum

Laburnum alpinum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Fabaceae (Pea)
Also in this family:
Alpine Milk-vetch, Alsike Clover, Birdsfoot, Birdsfoot Clover, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Bithynian Vetch, Bitter Vetch, Black Broom, Black Medick, Bladder Senna, Broad Bean, Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea, Bur Medick, Burrowing Clover, Bush Vetch, Clustered Clover, Common Broom, Common Gorse, Common Laburnum, Common Restharrow, Common Vetch, Crimson Clover, Crown Vetch, Dragon's Teeth, Dwarf Gorse, Dyer's Greenweed, False Acacia, Fine-leaved Vetch, Fodder Vetch, Garden Lupin, Garden Pea, Goat's Rue, Grass Vetchling, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Greenweed, Hairy Tare, Hairy Vetchling, Hairy-fruited Broom, Haresfoot Clover, Hop Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Hungarian Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Knotted Clover, Large Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil, Lucerne, Marsh Pea, Meadow Vetchling, Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil, Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea, Narrow-leaved Vetch, Nootka Lupin, Norfolk Everlasting Pea, Orange Birdsfoot, Petty Whin, Purple Milk-vetch, Purple Oxytropis, Red Clover, Reversed Clover, Ribbed Melilot, Rough Clover, Russell Lupin, Sainfoin, Scorpion Senna, Sea Clover, Sea Pea, Sickle Medick, Slender Bird's-foot Trefoil, Slender Tare, Slender Trefoil, Small Melilot, Small Restharrow, Smooth Tare, Spanish Broom, Spanish Gorse, Spiny Restharrow, Spotted Medick, Spring Vetch, Strawberry Clover, Suffocated Clover, Sulphur Clover, Tall Melilot, Toothed Medick, Tree Lupin, Tuberous Pea, Tufted Vetch, Twin-headed Clover, Two-flowered Everlasting Pea, Upright Clover, Upright Vetch, Western Clover, Western Gorse, White Broom, White Clover, White Lupin, White Melilot, Wild Liquorice, Wood Vetch, Yellow Oxytropis, Yellow Vetch, Yellow Vetchling, Zigzag Clover
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
5 metres tall
Gardens, hedgerows, mountains, rocky places, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
Hanging spikes of bright yellow flowers. The flowers are reminiscent of Wisteria but are yellow. Insect pollinated.
The fruit is a green, pea-like pod which turns black with age. The seeds ripen in September and October.
Dark green, trefoil leaves which are alternately arranged along the stems. Leaflets are smooth and untoothed. The branches are weeping.
The flowers are vanilla-scented.
Other Names:
Alpine Bea Tree, Alpine Golden Chain Tree, Alpine Laburnum, Dwarf Laburnum, Golden Rain Tree, Scotch Laburnum.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Laburnum alpinum, commonly known as the Alpine laburnum or dwarf laburnum, is a species of laburnum that is native to the mountains of central and southern Europe. It is a small, deciduous shrub that typically grows to 3-5 m (10-16 ft) tall. The leaves are pinnate, with three or sometimes five leaflets, each leaflet 2-6 cm (0.79-2.36 in) long and 1-2 cm (0.39-0.79 in) broad. The yellow flowers are produced in pendulous racemes 10-30 cm (3.9-11.8 in) long in late spring, each flower 2-3 cm (0.79-1.18 in) diameter, with a central boss of yellow stamens; the fruit is a legume 2-4 cm (0.79-1.57 in) long. This species is hardy in USDA zones 3-7, and prefers full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. It is a popular ornamental plant, often used in rock gardens and for alpine displays.


Scottish Laburnum, also known as Laburnum alpinum, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the family Fabaceae. This beautiful tree is native to the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia, and is popular for its bright yellow flowers that bloom in spring and early summer.

The Scottish Laburnum is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 10 meters tall, with a spreading crown and a trunk that can reach up to 30 centimeters in diameter. The bark of the tree is smooth and grayish-brown, while its leaves are dark green and pinnate, with 6 to 10 leaflets that are oval or lance-shaped.

The flowers of the Scottish Laburnum are the tree's most striking feature. They are bright yellow, and grow in clusters that can be up to 20 centimeters long. The flowers are pea-like, and have a sweet fragrance that attracts bees and other pollinators.

The Scottish Laburnum is a hardy tree that prefers well-drained soils and full sun, although it can tolerate some shade. It is also tolerant of cold temperatures and can survive in areas with harsh winters. The tree is not particular about soil pH, but it does not grow well in soils that are too alkaline.

In addition to its beauty, the Scottish Laburnum has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Its bark, seeds, and leaves have been used to treat a range of ailments, including fever, rheumatism, and diarrhea. However, it is important to note that the tree is toxic and its seeds and bark should not be consumed in large quantities.

The Scottish Laburnum is also popular as an ornamental tree, and is often planted in parks, gardens, and along roadsides. Its attractive flowers and dense foliage make it a popular choice for landscaping, and it is often used as a specimen tree or in group plantings.

In conclusion, the Scottish Laburnum is a beautiful and versatile tree that is valued for its striking yellow flowers and hardy nature. Although it is toxic and should be handled with care, it remains a popular choice for landscaping and traditional medicine.

The Scottish Laburnum has several cultivars that have been developed for their unique characteristics. For example, the 'Pendulum' cultivar has a weeping growth habit, making it ideal for planting in hanging baskets or as a cascading feature in a garden. The 'Vossii' cultivar has larger flowers and is more cold hardy than the standard species.

In addition to its ornamental and medicinal uses, the Scottish Laburnum also has cultural significance. In Scotland, the tree is known as the "golden chain tree" and is often associated with folklore and mythology. It is said that the tree's long, hanging clusters of yellow flowers were used by witches to create golden chains that could be used to ensnare unsuspecting travelers.

The Scottish Laburnum is also important for its ecological value. The tree provides food and habitat for a variety of wildlife, including bees, butterflies, and birds. Its dense foliage provides shade and shelter for small animals, and its root system helps to prevent soil erosion.

Despite its many benefits, the Scottish Laburnum is not without its drawbacks. The tree is susceptible to several pests and diseases, including leaf spot, canker, and borers. It also has a shallow root system that can make it unstable in high winds, and its toxic nature can be a concern for households with pets or small children.

The Scottish Laburnum is a beautiful and fascinating tree with a rich history and many uses. Whether you are interested in its ornamental, medicinal, or ecological value, the Scottish Laburnum is sure to make a striking addition to any landscape. However, it is important to be aware of its toxic nature and potential drawbacks before deciding to plant one. With proper care and consideration, the Scottish Laburnum can be a rewarding and valuable addition to your garden or property.

Propagation of the Scottish Laburnum can be done through both seed and cuttings. Seed propagation is the most common method, and the seeds should be sown in the fall or early spring in a well-draining soil mix. The seeds should be kept moist and placed in a warm location until they germinate, which can take up to several weeks.

Cuttings can also be taken in the summer from softwood growth, although this method is less common. The cuttings should be taken from healthy, disease-free plants and should be about 10 to 15 centimeters long. They can be treated with a rooting hormone and placed in a soil mix with good drainage. The cuttings should be kept in a warm, humid location until they root, which can take several weeks.

Once established, the Scottish Laburnum requires little maintenance beyond regular watering and occasional pruning. The tree can be pruned in the late winter or early spring to remove any damaged or dead branches and to maintain a desired shape. Pruning can also help to encourage more prolific flowering in the following season.

Overall, the Scottish Laburnum is a versatile and striking tree with many uses and benefits. Whether you are looking to add a unique feature to your landscape, explore traditional medicine, or support local wildlife, the Scottish Laburnum is definitely worth considering. With its bright yellow flowers, hardy nature, and rich cultural significance, this beautiful tree is sure to make a lasting impression.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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