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Plants from the Ground Up

Xanthoceras Shiny-Leaf Yellowhorn

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I adore Xanthoceras, an interesting and unusual edible shrub/tree from Northern China. Slow growing to up to 20′ Yellowhorn has shiny, green pinnately compound leaves made up of 9-17 leaflets with serrated margins that are alternately arranged on this dense branching plant. Sweetly scented white flowers with yellow or pink centers appear on erect panicles in May. The arrival of seed pods in September-October are part of why is it such a useful plant, green leathery seed pods burst open to reveal dark mahogany colored pea sized nuts. These nuts can be roasted and eaten out of hand, although I have not had the chance to taste them yet, they are reported to have a flavor similar to that of macadamia nuts. The roasted nuts are also ground and used as flour. The nuts when pressed, yield a cooking oil that is also being investigated for use in biofuel production. All parts of the Chinese Flowering Chestnut are edible, the leaves and flowers are also eaten, traditionally flowers and young leaves are boiled. Do not bother with the older leaves as they become too fibrous.

Yellowhorn -from Xanthos, latin for yellow andkeras, greek for horn, so named for the tiny yellow prongs that appear between petals. This shrub also has nice yellow fall color to add it to fine attributes. Grown in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris in 1868 when seed were brought to France from China by a missionary named Pere David. These are partially self-fertile, but yields are better when two are present. Xanthoceras are highly adaptable, they thrive in full sun with adequate moisture, but can tolerate light shade and some drought. A plant worth a spot in your garden. USDA winter hardiness zones 4-9

For more photos and available sizes, see Xanthoceras sorbifolium at the Forestfarm Store.

3 Comments

  1. Will Xanthoceras Shiny-Leaf Yellowhorn handle high’s of 100 to 110 degrees? I live in Central Valley, CA and would love to have this tree if it can make it through the summer. Will it help if I plant it in shade?

    • Hi Dorothy,

      Thanks so much for your question. One of the best things about Xanthoceras is its ability to adapt to many climate types. Here in Southern Oregon, we regularly get above 100 degrees and the Yellowhorn do very well, even in pots! If you do want to try it, some afternoon shade would be helpful, especially while it is young and getting established. Adequate moisture will also be necessary, I would recommend a deep watering two to three times per week. I hope you are having a great summer and staying cool!

      All my best,

      Jen

      • Fantastic! Now that I know this tree can survive both winter and summer here, I have to get one for my garden! Drought tolerant is all I plant in the middle of this drought in Central CA,

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