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CERCIDIPHYLLUM japonicum

Image of Cercidiphyllum japonicum

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Cercidiphyllaceae

Botanical Name

CERCIDIPHYLLUM japonicum

Plant Common Name

Katsura Tree

General Description

Regarded as one of the world's most beautiful small shade trees, the katsura tree has uniform heart-shaped leaves, golden orange fall foliage and persistent coppery-tan seedpods that decorate its bare winter branches. A deciduous tree from China and Japan, it generally has a spreading, vase-shaped to oval-canopy and gray-brown bark that exfoliates in vertical bands, adding winter and spring interest.

The heart-shaped leaves first emerge with a bronzy color before turning medium green. The leaf blades have tiny scalloped edges and are usually held in opposite pairs on the branches. In early spring, before the leaves emerge, flowers adorn this dioecious species. Red female flowers occur on separate trees than those with green male blossoms. Fertile female trees yield many small green pods that ripen to a coppery tan and split open to shed winged seeds. In autumn, the foliage becomes a lovely mottled kaleidoscope of golden yellow and orange-red. The dropping leaves emit a sweet fragrance similar to that of warm cotton candy.

Grow katsura tree in full or partial sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Avoid highly alkaline soils and position this tree in a spot protected from drying winter winds. Young or newly planted trees need regular moisture to become established. This tree does not transplant well, so it is best to plant smaller trees. This often wide-branched tree is an ideal specimen plant for yards, parks or any open public space. It may also be planted as a street tree in large tree lawns with good soil.

Several notable weeping cultivars are available including 'Pendula', 'Tidal Wave', 'Amazing Grace' and the dense 'Heronswood Globe.' The natural forma pendulum is the largest weeping type. Another fine variant is the yellow-green foliaged 'Aureum.'

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    40'-65' / 12.2m - 19.8m

  • Width

    40'-50' / 12.2m - 15.2m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring

  • Native To

    Eastern Asia, China, Japan

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Red, Green

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Copper, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Purple, Light Green, Bronze

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Gold, Orange Red

  • Bark Color

    Brown, Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Exfoliating

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Street Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes