Golden rain tree Koelreuteria paniculata treeNative 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.

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By Karen