The Japanese Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is a beautiful deciduous tree known for its graceful appearance, aromatic foliage, and vibrant autumn colors.
Size and Shape: The Japanese Katsura tree is typically a medium-sized tree, although it can grow to be quite large under optimal conditions. It generally reaches heights of 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 meters) but can occasionally exceed this range. The tree often has a broadly pyramidal to oval-shaped crown when young, which gradually becomes more rounded as it matures.
Leaves: One of the most distinctive features of the Japanese Katsura tree is its unique leaves. They are heart-shaped or slightly rounded with serrated edges and are typically 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) in size. The leaves emerge reddish-purple in spring, mature to a blue-green color in summer, and then turn a brilliant array of yellow, apricot, and pink in the fall. What's especially captivating is the sweet, caramel-like fragrance that the leaves emit when they change color in autumn, often compared to cotton candy or burnt sugar.
Bark: The bark of the Japanese Katsura tree is smooth and gray, developing furrows and ridges with age. It provides an attractive contrast to the colorful leaves in the fall.
Flowers: The tree produces inconspicuous, greenish-yellow flowers in early spring before the leaves fully emerge. These flowers are not particularly showy but are a sign of the tree's awakening from dormancy.
Fruits: The Katsura tree produces small, round, and woody fruits that resemble small capsules. These fruits contain tiny seeds and are not typically grown for their edibility.
Site Requirements: Japanese Katsura trees thrive in well-drained, moist soils and prefer full sun to partial shade. They are adaptable to a range of soil types but appreciate consistent moisture. These trees are hardy and can withstand cold winters, making them suitable for various climates.
Landscape Use: Katsura trees are popular in landscape design due to their ornamental foliage and outstanding autumn colors. They are often planted as specimen trees in parks, gardens, and larger landscapes. The fragrant autumn display and changing leaf colors make them a standout feature in any setting.
Growth Rate: Japanese Katsura trees have a moderate growth rate, and they are known to live for several decades, adding beauty and character to the landscape over time.
In summary, the Japanese Katsura tree is prized for its heart-shaped leaves, stunning fall color display, and the sweet fragrance of its foliage in autumn. It is a visually appealing and aromatic addition to gardens and landscapes, providing year-round interest with its changing seasons and unique characteristics.