Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Here's a shot of Koelreuteria paniculata, shortly after the seed pods had formed, in Arlington, Virginia. You'll note that the tree is upstaging a Hummer-Limo, the environmental opposite of yesterday's post.

I was hoping that there was some kind of meaning behind the genus name, but alas, it is simply named after a German naturalist, J.G. Koelreuter.

Goldenraintree, however, is a common name applied for more precise reasons. In early summer, large panicles of yellow flowers adorn the tree. As the flowers age they fall from the tree like so many canary colored raindrops. Shortly after, seed pods resembling Chinese lanterns form on the panicles and persist well into autumn. The transition from blooms to seedpods is very, very fast. In fact, on some trees, half the canopy will be in flower, while the other half has well-formed pods.

Perhaps this speedy transition also accounts for why the tree self-seeds very aggressively. I recommend to my students that they don't plant this over juniper beds or any other underplanting that will be difficult to weed. That's the situation my poor parents have inherited at their home in Virginia. Though the tree has a lovely form, each year my folks have to scour their lot for seedlings before they become too large, and they must sheepishly tell neighbors about this tree's aggressive progeny when they see saplings growing in the yard next door. This plant annoys them very, very much.

To prove the point, here you can see the seedlings sprouting in a planting bed nearby:

Goldenraintree is very easy to ID. Though there is a slew of plants that have pinnately compound leaves, very few have lobed leaflets. And to the tree's defense, it is very tough and performs well as a street tree.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an evil, awful tree if you don't have a space to mow over the seedlings. It is dirty if over cars and the pods are dangerous as you can slip and fall if they get underfoot. I hate this tree. Yes it is beautiful to look at if it is in the right setting, but we finally cut it down and burned the firewood. If you have acres you might like it but in suburbia it doesn't work. Now let me tell you how I really feel.