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KOELREUTERIA elegans

Image of Koelreuteria elegans

Forest & Kim Starr

Family

Sapindaceae

Botanical Name

KOELREUTERIA elegans

Plant Common Name

Flamegold

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Feathery compound foliage of flamegold is accentuated by upright, airy clusters of tiny yellow flowers in late summer, and showy salmon-pink or pale red-orange seedpods soon thereafter. A rounded, semi- or fully deciduous tree with an irregular branching habit with cracking gray bark, it a native of warm southern China and Taiwan.

Its leaves are bi-pinnately compound - a central leaf stem petiole branches again into lined stems of tooth-edged, bright green leaflets. In late summer to early fall think wispy-stemmed clusters of yellow flowers arise from branch tips. The individual flowers are small, five-petaled and have a reddish base around the stamens. The pods that quickly form after being pollinated by bees are papery, three-chambered pods that are often called "Chinese lanterns", dangling from the branches. They are rosy-pink or salmon-pink when young, gradualy drying to be more pink and tan or red-tan. A tree filled with the pods is exponentially more attractive than when in flower. The seeds readily germinate around the base of the tree, leading to weedy seedlings in the landscape. In very late autumn, if not first killed by a frost, the foliage can turn a lovely golden yellow.

Flamegold is tolerant of many conditions and are great urban trees tolerant of pollution, heat, salt and drought. It prospers in well-drained soil and full sun but will grow in partial shade. Fully evergreen in warm tropical areas, it is deciduous elsewhere winters are cool or frosty. It has an open, rangy, leaning habit and brittle wood which breaks during windstorms. Prune it while young to establish good branch structure and a tidy shape. The seeds of this tree are fertile and pop-up around the landscape. Flamegold is excellent in providing broken shade to patios, is a good street tree and works well in small yards and landscapes, although quite messy.

Flamegold may be considered a noxious weed or a prohibited invasive plant in mild, subtropical regions.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 8

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 12

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    25'-50' / 7.6m - 15.2m (35)

  • Bloom Time

    Late Summer, Early Fall, Fall

  • Native To

    China

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site, Pollution, Drought, Soil Compaction

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Red

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Fruit Color

    Salmon, Orange Red, Dark Salmon, Tan, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Dark Green, Gold

  • Foliage Color (Fall) Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Yellow, Gold

  • Bark Color

    Orange, Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Bark Color Modifier

    Multi-Color

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Fissured

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Street Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes