THE SILVER BELL TREE AND THE SWEET LEAF - FAMILY STYRACEAE. There are seven genera in the storax family, and few species, scattered over the warmer sections of the north temperate zone. Benzoin and storax, valuable balsams of commerce, are obtained from two species, one in the Molucca Islands, the other in Asia Minor and Europe.
i. Genus MOHRODENDRON, Britt.
Small trees with slender, pithy, pubescent branchlets and no terminal buds. Leaves simple, alternate, deciduous. Flowers white, bell-shaped, conspicuous. Fruit corky, 2 to 4-winged, 2 to 4-celled, with 1 seed in each cell.
KeY TO SPECIES A. Fruit 2-winged; corolla deeply lobed.
(M. dipterum) SNOWDROP TREE AA. Fruit 4-winged; corolla shallowly lobed.
(M. tetraptera) SILVER BELL TREE Silver Bell Tree, Snowdrop Tree (Mohrodendron tetrap tera, Britt.)—Tree or shrub to 8o feet high, with erect branches and narrow head. Bark scaly, brown, with shallow furrows and broad ridges, new shoots pubescent; twigs smooth. Wood pale brownish, soft, light, close. Buds hairy, small, reddish, blunt. Leaves ovate, oblong, acuminate entire, 2 to 4 inches long, dark green above, paler and stellate pubescent beneath, pale yellow in fall. Flowers in May, white, bell shaped, in lateral clusters of 2 to 4, perfect; stamens 8 to 16, pistil 2 to 4-celled, 4 ovules in each cell. Fruit 4-winged, dry, oblong drupe. Preferred habitat, well drained, rich soil in sheltered situations. Distribution, mountains of West Virginia to Illinois; south to Florida, northern Alabama and Mississippi to Arkansas, Louisiana and eastern Texas. Uses: A beautiful ornamental tree for parks and private grounds.
If the snowdrops from the garden should suddenly quit their sunny corner and take to the woods and you went out to find them, you would be sure they had climbed a tree and were looking down at you with that same meek expression, though you never looked into their faces before. The little mohrodendron tree knows better than you do where these white bells come from that whiten her ruddy twigs so completely that even the tuft of opening leaves on the end of the shoot is forgotten. With the opening of the buds little flesh-coloured flowers appear and hang inconspicuously down for a considerable time. There are rosy
tones in the opening leaf buds and a ruddy glow on the twigs themselves. Sun and rain work slowly but surely. The corolla grows to full size, and bleaches, surrendering its colour and its leathery texture. The sun comes out, and on some fine morning the carriages that have driven by the tree each day, perhaps for weeks, are stopped, while the occupants exclaim upon the magic which has clothed the little tree in a bridal veil— "Has turned it white In a single night," some will insist, for "we would never have missed it." Yet the truth is, the miracle has been gradually unfolding, and people in carriages do miss all but the denouement of such miracles. They view Nature from afar off, and miss a great deal of good fun that the pedestrian finds for himself.
The white bells fade and fall, and a queer little green, tapering thing, with four thin wings in lengthwise lines, ripens into the ,seed case. Among the leaves these pale-green fruits are distinctly ornamental throughout the season.
"The snowdrop tree" is a favourite in gardens, and is per fectly hardy north to the Great Lakes. It is easily transplanted and grows in bush or tree form, according to the pruning it receives. A variety, Meehani, of handsome, bushy habit and copious bloom, grows about 12 feet high. It looks in full bloom somewhat like an apple tree. The flowers are smaller but more numerous than on the parent tree, and the corollas are more open and bowl shaped. The variety has thus far failed to set perfect seed.
A Snowdrop Tree (M. diptera, Britt.) inhabits swampy land along the south Atlantic and Gulf coasts and follows the Mississippi to Arkansas. It is hardy in cultivation no farther north than Philadelphia. It is smaller in stature than the silver bell tree, but has larger leaves and more showy flowers. Between the two species the chief difference is that two of the seed's wings in this one have become obsolete, leaving it two winged, di-ptera. The other species has four-winged seeds, expressed in the Greek word tetra-ptera.