Native to China, Japan and Korea, golden-chain tree is a small deciduous tree with a rounded outline, wide-spreading branches, and a fabulous display of yellow flowers all over the tree in summer. The bright green pinnately compound leaves emerge in spring with a pinkish to bronze caste and are 6-15” long with each leaflet being 1-4” long. In fall, the color of the leaves may turn yellow with an orange caste or fade to yellowish green. The yellow flowers have a red center and are borne in clusters 12-15” long. They give way to 2” long fruits that are papery and inflated, mature to a coppery tan and persist into winter. The light gray-brown bark develops furrows and ridges as it matures. Tolerant of wind, long periods of drought, and alkaline soil, golden-rain tree has a deep root system and open branching that allows grass to grow under it. This is an good choice for lawns, patios, specimens, and urban sites. Golden-rain tree is a member of the soapberry family, Sapindaceae, that also includes maple, horsechectnut, and lychee. The genus name, Koelreuteria, Joseph Gottlienb, Koelreuter (1733-1806), a prefessor of natural history at Karlsruhe, and a pioneer investigator in plant hybridization. The specific epithet, paniculata, comes from the Latin word panicula meaing tuft, the diminutive of panus meaning thread, and refers to the floral inflorescence.
Type: Small deciduous tree
Outstanding Feature: Flowers
Form: Rounded, developing a flat top
Growth Rate: Moderate
Bloom: Terminal panicles 12-15” long of bright yellow flowers ½” wide are produced in summer followed by inflated, papery fruits 2” long.
Size: 25-40’ H x 3—40’ W
Light: Full sun
Soil: Fertile, medium moist, well-drained; drought tolerant when mature
Hardiness: Zones 5-9
Care: Stake and prune young plants to encourage high brancing; Periodically, prune out weak, diseased, or broken branches.
Pests and Diseases: Susceptible to coral spot fungus, root rot, and canker.
Propagation: Seed, root cuttings.