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Amur Cork Tree Phellodendron amurense

Previously known as:

  • Phellodendron japonicum
  • Phellodendron molle
  • Phellodendron sachalinense
Phonetic Spelling
fel-oh-DEN-dron a-moor-EN-se
Description

The Amur cork tree is small to a medium-sized deciduous tree that has a rounded, broad spreading crown with horizontal branching, and grows to a height of 30 to 45 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet wide. It has a distinctive thick, corky, and spongy bark and a shorter trunk. The leaves are compound, oddly pinnate, dark green, and opposite. Each leaf has 5 to 11 leaflets. This species has separate male and female trees. The flowers are yellowish-green panicles that bloom in May or June. The female flowers produce small drupes that mature in the fall and persist through the winter months. When the foliage is bruised, it has an unpleasant odor or turpentine scent. 

This tree is native to Northern China, Korea, and Japan. It is typically found between Siberia and China in the moist soils along the Amur River. The Amur cork tree was introduced in the United States in 1856. It was favored as a shade tree, street tree, and tree for the home landscape. Currently, it has lost popularity due to its tendency to be invasive and weedy, particularly in the Northeastern United States. It is reported as invasive in Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  It is also listed as a noxious weed in the Midwest United States. 

The genus name, Phellodendron, is derived from two Greek words. Phellos means cork, and dendron means tree or treelike structure. The specific epithet, amurense, refers to its native habitat along the Amur River. The common name, cork tree, references the similarity of the bark of this tree with the unrelated oak tree, Quercus suber.

The Amur cork tree prefers full sun, and moist, well-drained soils. It is adaptable to different soil types. It is drought-tolerant once established and air-pollution-tolerant. The shallow wide-spreading root system makes this tree easy to transplant. The female tree produces thousands of seeds, and the tree can reproduce by seed or by re-sprouting. 

Amur cork tree has demonstrated invasive characteristics. It tends to invade and replace native hardwood trees. The female tree has the potential to become invasive; therefore, it may be best to consider planting the male non-fruit-producing tree or cultivar.

This tree was favored for use in the landscape as a shade tree or use in parks, golf courses, highway medians, or large parking lots. Its bark adds winter interest to the landscape. Due to its invasiveness and weedy potential, consider adding a native plant to your landscape.

Seasons of Interest:

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

Quick ID Hints:

  • deciduous tree, short trunk, broad spreading crown, 35 to 40 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet wide
  • bark is thick, corky, and spongy
  • foliage is yellowish-green to green, compound, oddly pinnate, 5 to 11 leaflets
  • flowers are yellowish-green panicles in the spring
  • fruits are small black drupes in the fall

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: This tree has no serious insect or disease problems.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy, and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

 

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Macho'
    male tree, thick leathery leaves, upright growth
  • 'Shademaster'
    male tree
'Macho', 'Shademaster'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#drought tolerant#weedy#spring flowers#winter interest#air pollution tolerant#food source wildlife#wind tolerant#dioecious#drupes#fruits fall#black fruits#compaction tolerant#urban conditions tolerant#clay soils tolerant#medium size tree#bark#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Macho'
    male tree, thick leathery leaves, upright growth
  • 'Shademaster'
    male tree
'Macho', 'Shademaster'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#drought tolerant#weedy#spring flowers#winter interest#air pollution tolerant#food source wildlife#wind tolerant#dioecious#drupes#fruits fall#black fruits#compaction tolerant#urban conditions tolerant#clay soils tolerant#medium size tree#bark#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Phellodendron
    Species:
    amurense
    Family:
    Rutaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The bark is used to make medicines for osteoarthritis, weight loss, and other conditions.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Russia Far East, North and East China, Manchuria, Korea, & Japan
    Distribution:
    Native: China North-Central, China Southeast, Inner Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Manchuria, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Introduced: Bulgaria, Quebec, Romania, Tadzhikistan, and the United States--CT, DE, IL, MA, NJ, NY, OH, and PA.
    Wildlife Value:
    The drupes attract birds, squirrels, and other small mammals.
    Play Value:
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 45 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 40 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Horizontal
    Irregular
    Open
    Spreading
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The female flower produces drupes that measure 0.25 to 0.5 inches in diameter. They are initially bright green and turn black when they mature in the fall. The drupes persist on the tree through the winter and have an unpleasant scent when bruised or crushed. Each fruit contains 2 or 3 seeds that are brown or black and measure 5 mm long and 2 mm wide,
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Panicle
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Flowering occurs in late spring, from May to June. They are non-showy, yellowish-green panicles.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Velvety
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are dark green, opposite and pinnately compound, 10 to 15 inches long, and divided into 5 to 11 leaflets. Each leaflet is elliptical. 2.5 to 4.5 inches long. The undersides of the leaves are velvety and pubescent. The leaves smell like turpentine when crushed. The fall color is yellow to bronze.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Spongy
    Bark Description:
    The outer bark is grayish-brown, thick, corky, spongy, and ridged on a mature tree. It has a bright yellow inner bark. The wood is rot-resistant.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Leaf Scar Shape:
    C-shaped, Cresent shaped
    Stem Description:
    The twigs are brown and gray. The leaf scar is horseshoe-shaped. The petiole almost encloses the bud.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Compaction
    Drought
    Pollution
    Wet Soil
    Wind
    Problems:
    Weedy