The Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is native to Japan and China but fossils were found that show that this tree grew in Europe and western North America during the Miocene Ephoch (5-23 million years ago) and, except in Asia, then vanished. The tree was reintroduced to the United States in 1865 by Thomas Hogg who was sent on a diplomatic mission to Japan. It is a deciduous tree known for its beautiful pyramidal shape and foliage. Large heart-shaped bluish green leaves with blunt teeth on the margins turn gold, orange and red in the fall. The leaves resemble those of the redbud tree. Pollinated flowers on female trees are followed by clusters of small banana-shaped greenish pods. They open in the fall to release seeds. The bark of the Katsura is light gray and flaky to slightly shaggy. Katsura trees are now commonly cultivated as an ornamental yard and street tree. In autumn the leaves turn yellow with a caramel-like scent
Common name: Katsura Tree
Scientific Name (order and family): Cercidiphyllum japonicum Siebold & Zuccarini (Cercidiphyllaceae, Saxifragales)
Species Native Origin: Japan, West China, Himalayas.
Habit: Broadly spreading: 60 – 100 ‘ tall, 70 ‘ wide; mountain forests. Straight trunk sometimes multistemmed.
Trunk/Stem: Bark grey brown and smooth, freckled with light colored lenticels. Vertical cracks at maturity, furrowed and flaking.
Leaves: Deciduous, simple. The leave may be EITHER alternate or opposite. The new leaves are reddish purple, cordate, resembling red-bud tree leaves; 3” long and wide, margins finely toothed. Petiole long 1 “. Petioles lax, red. Leaves bright matte green on top and blue –green on the underside. But by mid summer top leaf also becomes blue-green. In fall leaves change from orange to apricot-flushed red or sulfur yellow. The leaves give off a caramel aroma as they decompose.
Flowers: Dioecious. Bright red male flowers appear on side shoots before the leaves emerge in spring; red female flowers develop on separate trees at the same time. Flowers, ½” wide, small, tuft-like, without petals; male flowers with numerous red stamens; female (pistillate) flowers with 4 fringed sepals and 4 -6 purplish carpels (red styles) borne on the axils of separate trees. Flowers open early March to April; flowers not showy.
Fruits and seeds: Small curved green pod-like, ½ to ¾ “ long dehiscent banana-shaped follicle. Ripening to brown in clusters of 2 -4 together on short spur. Seeds are paper thin and winged.