Many ornamental trees sport pink or white flowers in the spring. However there are some flowering trees covered in yellow flowers hanging like bunches of grapes. The golden chain tree (Laburnum x watereri) is unmistakable. It is an uncommon but beautiful ornamental tree.
The golden chain tree is covered in yellow flower chains for about two weeks in the spring. The pealike flowers start appearing in late May and chains can be as long as 50 cm (20 inches). The flowers attract birds, bees and other insects while in bloom. Later, the flowers ripen in to flattened pods that contain poisonous seeds.
The golden chain tree is a small, ornamental considered invasive in parts of the USA. It reaches approximately 4.5 m (15 feet) tall and 3 m (10 feet) wide at maturity. The golden chain tree naturally forms a vaselike shape, which can be destroyed if pruned, so only prune when necessary.
Golden chain trees are beautiful ornamentals but are prone to problems. They are generally short-lived, suffer from sunscald and severe winters kill twigs. Golden chain trees are also prone to canker disease and twig blight. Some of the problems are alleviated by careful site planning. When planting, place them in a protective corner near a building or a wall.
Despite the problems and the tree's short-lived beauty, it has a strong following. A few cultivars exist adding some additional interest to the original hybrid between L. alpinum and L. anagyroides. Weeping varieties are of particular interest, but flowers seem sparse. Weeping varieties include Alford's Weeping and Pendulum.