|S. officinalis in the Menashe hills of Israel|
Styrax officinalis is a shrub native to southern Europe and the Middle East. The same species is considered to occur native to California (a Mediterranean-American disjunct distribution). The California varieties Styrax officinalis subsp. redidivus (Torrey) H. Howard and Styrax officinalis subsp. fulvescens (Styracaceae) have generally been regarded as the same species, but recent molecular analysis has suggested that they may be diverged to the point of being separate species. It has a simple, relaxed form, with very thin elliptical leaves 5–10 cm long and 3.5-5.5 cm wide, alternate and widely spaced on thin, reddish stems, with a tight, dark bark on basal stems. A small very light green, stalked axillary bud is associated with each leaf. The inflorescence is short and few-flowered. It is the "official" source of styrax, an herbal medicine known from ancient times. Some believe it to have been the stacte used together with frankincense, galbanum, and onycha to make Ketoret, the Tabernacle incense of the Old Testament.
- Peter Frisch (1996-03). "Isozyme Analysis of Intercontinental Disjuncts within Styrax (Styracaceae): Implications for the Madrean-Tethyan Hypothesis". American Journal of Botany 83 (3): 342–355. doi:10.2307/2446169. JSTOR 2446169.
- Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden Newsletter 5 (2). 1999. (includes helpful photos of the features described)
- James A. Duke (2007). Duke's Handbook of Medicinal Plants of the Bible. p. 447. ISBN 978-0-8493-8202-4.