Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sophora Blooms

So, the Sophora is in bloom in Manhattan now. Which is bittersweet for me, because it means that that summer is winding down. ...August is great in New York; the subways aren't too crowded, the restaurants aren't packed and, generally, work isn't too crazy, either. But the sad part is that after August, it's September and before we know it, the weather starts to turn cold. And I really, really hate the cold.

ANYWAY, back to the Sophora. Despite the personal symbolism, Sophora is a lovely tree. It's large enough to be a street tree, but has showy flowers and fruit. Chances are, even if you don't know the tree, you've walked down a sidewalk lately that looks like this:

Sophora japonica (technically it's Styphnolobium japonicum now, but for sentimental reasons, I'll call it Sophora) is a legume, thus it's related to Lupinus, Gleditsia, Robinia and Cercis. You can see the similarity among these cousins by noting the somewhat pea-like flower and the long bean-like seed pods they produce.

I tell my students the Sophora seed pods are easy to spot because they look like edamame.

Below is a great specimen on Second Avenue. The flowers make quite a show and last for a while. To me, when this tree is in full bloom, it reminds me of a fireworks finale full of chyrsanthemums. Though I'm not sure my students would really get that visual. I doubt you would, either, really.

While the above tree is great, it's still no match for what I must assume is the largest Sophora in existence. That's surely the specimen at the Jardin du Plantes in Paris.


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