UBC Botanical Garden’s collection of Asian Styracaceae includes two species of Rehderodendron, three of Sinojackia, one Melliodendron, three Pterostyrax, one Halesia and eight species of Styrax, including this one.
From what we’ve seen, virtually all Styrax species are attractive plants and certainly worth growing for their small stature, fragrant, star-shaped flowers and hanging, nut-like drupes; however, some of the more obscure, recently collected taxa are problematic in terms of their identification. This has been helped enormously with the on-line availability of the Flora of China keys and illustrations, and the superb new book, New Trees; Recent Introductions to Cultivation by Grimshaw and Bayton (2009), where many recently collected species are described.
This particular plant was grown from seed collected in the Huaping Cathaya Reserve, in northern Guangxi, China by Tom Hudson, plant explorer and manager of the Tregrehan Garden in Cornwall. Styrax tonkinensis is native to mixed forests at between 100 and 2000 metres elevation in southern China and adjacent Indochina. Our plant refuses to flower when it’s supposed to (the printed descriptions all say May to June), waiting instead until the last week of July to open its blooms.