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Panicled Golden Raintree Koelreuteria paniculata

Previously known as:

  • Koelreuteria apiculata
  • Koelreuteria chinensis
  • Koelreuteria japonica
  • Sapindus chinensis
  • Sapindus paniculata
Phonetic Spelling
kol-ru-TEE-ri-a pan-ik-u-LA-ta
Description

The golden rain tree is a medium-sized deciduous tree in the Sapindaceae (soapberry) family. It is a great urban flowering tree that tolerates drought, heat, wind, and air pollution and grows 30 to 40 feet tall high and equally as wide. It has spreading branches but a rounded crown. This tree has a medium to fast growth rate and transplants and self-seeds easily.

It flowers at an early age with a display of summer yellow flowers that produce a fireworks show of bright color.  When the blooms are finished and the petals drop to the ground resembling a "Golden Rain" blanket, hence the common name. The yellow color is echoed in the feathery compound leaves come fall, but it is inconsistent, so not particularly showy. The fruit display is very distinctive with three-parted dry tan capsules, and these showy fruits are sometimes used in dried arrangements.

The golden rain tree is native to China, Japan, Korea, and Manchuria. It was first introduced to North America in 1763. It is currently on the National Park Service, Mid-Atlantic Exotic Plant Management Team Invasive Plant List.

The genus name, Koelreuteria, is in honor of Joseph Gottlieb Koelreuter who was a German professor of botany and experimented with plant hybridization in the 18th century. The specific epithet, paniculata, refers to the tree's panicle-like floral inflorescence.

Plant this soil-adaptable tree in full sun. While it tolerates a range of soil types it prefers moist, well-drained, and acidic to alkaline soils. It is tolerant to drought and urban air pollution. This tree is mildly resistant to damage by deer.

Golden rain tree works well planted on a lawn or park or near a patio, though consider the flower and leaf litter if planted near any hardscape. Use it to shade children's gardens where the flowers and fruits can be enjoyed. It may also be used as a shade tree or street tree.  This tree can escape cultivation and naturalizes in various conditions. You may wish to consider a native plant alternative.

Seasons of Interest:

Bark;  Winter   Bloom: Summer    Foliage:  Summer and Fall          Fruits:  Summer, Fall, and Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • 12 to 15-inch long panicles of yellow star-shaped flowers that bloom in mid-summer.
  • Sparsely branched small tree rounded form
  • Fruits are dehiscent, papery, and 3-valved
  • Stems also have prominent, shield-shaped leaf scars. Prominent hairy buds and twigs have orange-brown lenticels
  • Leaves are pinnately compound, 6 to 18-inches long, and have 7-15 leaflets
  • Leaflets near the leaf base are deeply lobed

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  The golden rain tree has no serious insect or disease problems.  It may sometimes suffer from coral spot fungus, root rot, and cankers. Verticillium wilt may cause wilting of the leaves and can eventually kill the tree.  Occasionally scales may be seen, and the boxelder bug can be problematic.  It reseeds easily and can become weedy. It tends to have brittle wood so can be damaged in storms or during the winter.

VIDEO created by Grant L. Thompson for “Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines for Landscaping” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University.

 

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Fastigiata'
    Narrow upright 30' tall 6' wide
  • 'September'
    Blooms later August-September but not as cold hardy
'Fastigiata', 'September'
Tags:
#showy flowers#small tree#shade tree#full sun tolerant#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#weedy#feathery leaves#nectar plant#fall interest#interesting leaves#air pollution tolerant#lawn tree#disease resistant#cpp#wind tolerant#pest resistant#transplant#summer flowers#deer resistant#children's garden#large flowers#playground plant#weak wood#self-seeding#pollinator plant#fantz#parks#dried arrangements#urban conditions tolerant#patio planting#bee friendly#lawn planting#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Fastigiata'
    Narrow upright 30' tall 6' wide
  • 'September'
    Blooms later August-September but not as cold hardy
'Fastigiata', 'September'
Tags:
#showy flowers#small tree#shade tree#full sun tolerant#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#weedy#feathery leaves#nectar plant#fall interest#interesting leaves#air pollution tolerant#lawn tree#disease resistant#cpp#wind tolerant#pest resistant#transplant#summer flowers#deer resistant#children's garden#large flowers#playground plant#weak wood#self-seeding#pollinator plant#fantz#parks#dried arrangements#urban conditions tolerant#patio planting#bee friendly#lawn planting#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Koelreuteria
    Species:
    paniculata
    Family:
    Sapindaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China, Japan, Korea, and Manchuria
    Distribution:
    Native: China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Japan, Korea, and Manchuria. Introduced: Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Romania, Spain, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and the United States--AL, DE, FL, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MO, NJ, NY, NC OH, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, and WV.
    Wildlife Value:
    Nectar from the flowers attracts bees.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Very Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Good Dried
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a 1.5 to a 2-inch long dehiscent, hollow papery, 3-valved capsule that looks like a three-sided balloon or Chinese lantern. It changes from green to yellow, and then light brown and persists into winter making for a good show. It has a hard, pea-sized black seed inside. The dried capsules work well in flower arrangements. The fruits are present from August to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The blooms appear in large 12 to 15-inch panicles. Each flower is 0.5 inches wide, perfect, bright yellow, and star-shaped with red centers. Blooming occurs in July. The falling blossoms form a golden carpet beneath the tree.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Purple/Lavender
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenate
    Lobed
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Interesting unusually shaped feathery pinnately or bipinnately compound alternate leaves that are 6 to 18 inches long. There are 7-15 leaflets, each one ovate to ovate-oblong, that grows 1 to 4 inches long. Margins are irregularly crenate-serrate on lobes. Leaflets near the base are deeply lobed, giving the leaf the appearance of being bipinnately compound. Leaves are vivid green above, and the veins underneath can be pubescent. New leaves are pinkish bronze to purple and turn green as they mature. The fall color is variable but golden yellow.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Lenticels
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    The bark is light gray-brown with flat ridges and reddish-brown shallow furrows. It has an irregular texture giving it an ornamental appeal. Lenticels are gray to dark brown.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Hairy
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Leaf Scar Shape:
    Heart or shield shaped
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    Stems are light brown, stout, prominent, and either glabrous or have appressed pubescence. They have shield-shaped leaf scars and raised orange-brown, conspicuous lenticels. Buds are large and have tufts of hair at the top. There are usually no terminal buds. The lateral buds are sessile, half-ellipsoid, two-sided, brown, and 0.25 inches long.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Patio
    Pool/Hardscape
    Recreational Play Area
    Small Space
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Heat
    Pollution
    Urban Conditions
    Wind
    Problems:
    Weak Wood
    Weedy