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Cercidiphyllum japonicum - katsura tree



The katsura is an important forest production tree in its native Japan, where it can reach 30m. In Europe it is smaller, remaining a small tree or a shrub. The leaves are almost round with scalloped edges, and regularly positioned along the branches. This gives the tree a uniquely beautiful habit which has made it one of the most valued for landscaping, though it has neither showy flowers nor fruit. In autumn the leaves turn shades from white to a variety of reds, though yellow is perhaps most prevalent. After falling, they emit a sweet scent which has been compared with gingerbread, burnt sugar and vanilla.

Katsuras, though rare in Finland, have been grown here for decades. They are often of indeterminate provenance grown in central European nurseries, and can be frost-damaged in cold winters even in the south of Finland. However, a hardy natural provenance grown at Gothenburg Botanical Garden has thrived as far north as Oulu, so it appears that seed gathered in cold areas is noticeably hardier, and would provide useful landscaping trees for south and central Finland.

Katsura is a demanding tree of rich forests, so for successful growing requires deep soil which does not freeze and should never become dry during summer. It survives on drier soils, but remains shrubby. It is less demanding about light, tolerating light shade. In the protection of other trees or of buildings its leaves, which break early in the spring, are better protected from spring frosts.