Quarryhill Botanical Garden

Advancing the Conservation, Study, and Cultivation of the Flora of Asia

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Featured Plants

Cercidiphyllum japonicum

As one of the largest deciduous trees in Japan and China, it was once considered endemic there until found by E. H. Wilson in China in 1910.  Autumn color is quite variable, from yellow to orange to red to mauve, and either wet or, especially, autumn conditions promote an elusive but potent foliar fragrance described as burnt or brown sugar, or vanilla.

The Katsura tree, as it is commonly known, requires ample water during the growing season and full sun, it is a broadly pyramidal, dioecious (each plant either male- or female-flowered) tree reaches a height of 30 meters in the wild, with a spirally twisting, peely trunk that develops longitudinal fissures and is often branched at the base.  Leaves are opposite or rarely alternate, on long branchlets, violet-red colored when young, and dimorphic (assuming two growth forms).  Leaf blades are up to 8 cm in length, slightly less in width, and are ovate to obovate to reniform (kidney shaped; the genus name refers to the Cercis or redbud leaf shape).  Staminate (male) flowers are pink and narrowly oblong and pistillate (female) flowers are single carpels), brown to blackish purple and 10-18 mm long, containing brown, winged seeds, 5 - 6.5 mm, appearing August - September.  Native to forest streamsides in China and Japan.