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Plants from the Ground Up

Cercidiphyllum japonicum – Sweet Katsura Tree

There are few trees more appealing in the landscape than the Katsura tree. Cercidiphyllum japonicum trees truly have four-season interest. Their beautiful heart-shaped leaves flutter on this 40-60 foot pyramidal tree turning shades of plum and gold in autumn. After the leaves fall they reveal its lovely symmetrical branching and scaly/shaggy bark. Though this tree is worth planting on its looks alone, I adore it for its sugar-cookie scented fall leaves. It has been called the caramel tree for its burnt sugar or cotton candy scent. More than once customers have been to Forestfarm and wanted to know who was baking cookies! Once you smell this tree you will know you must have one!

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Rotfuchs’ RED FOX KATSURA

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Rotfuchs’ – RED FOX KATSURA

Cercidiphyllum are in their own family of Cercidiphyllaceae, named so because of their resemblance to Cercis (Redbud) leaves. The two genera are easily distinguished as Cerdiphyllum leaves are much smaller than Cercis and are oppositely arranged while Cercis are alternately arranged. Cercidiphyllum are found in Japan and China and in their native habitat can reach an incredible 100 feet! This genus is dioecious (having separate male and female trees), however the flowers are inconspicuous so there is no reason to look for a sexed tree. The flowers are wind-pollinated and female trees create small pods with numerous winged seeds that release in late fall. Katsura trees are not invasive.

‘Claim Jumper’ is a wonderful gold-leaved variety that stays smaller growing to only 20 to 25 feet.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Claim Jumper’ GOLDEN KATSURA

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Claim Jumper’ – GOLDEN KATSURA

‘Heronswood Globe’ creates a small rounded tree 15 to 20 feet that is perfect for smaller yards.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Heronswood Globe’ COMPACT GLOBE KATSURA

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Heronswood Globe’ – COMPACT GLOBE KATSURA

‘Rotfuchs’ or Red Fox is a dramatic cultivar featuring red new growth that becomes dark purple-green in summer.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Rotfuchs’ RED FOX KATSURA

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Rotfuchs’ – RED FOX KATSURA

‘Raspberry’ has some of the best fall color turning a rich raspberry red.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Raspberry’ KATSURA

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Raspberry’ – KATSURA

‘Tidal Wave’ is an unusual weeping form that eventually grows to 20 feet and slightly wider; a fantastic specimen tree!

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Tidal Wave’ WEEPING KATSURA

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Tidal Wave’ – WEEPING KATSURA

Cericidiphyllum japonicum are easily grown in moist well-drained soils in full sun to part-shade. They cannot tolerate drought conditions and if they are planted in full sun in very hot summer climates they are prone to leaf scorch. Katsura trees grow relatively quickly as far as shade trees go. Another wonderful benefit of these trees is their lack of any serious pests or diseases. Katsura trees are hardy to USDA zone 5. The straight species are seed grown, however this tree comes in many cultivars that are grafted.

For more photos and information, see Cercidiphyllum japonicum at the Forestfarm Store.

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