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Pistacia chinensis is often confused with:
Carya illinoinensis Carya illinoinensis
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Zelkova serrata Zelkova serrata
Ulmus parvifolia Ulmus parvifolia
Acer rubrum Acer rubrum

Pistacia chinensis

Previously known as:

  • Pistacia formosana
  • Pistacia philippinensis
  • Rhus argyi
Phonetic Spelling
piss-TA-shi-a chi-NEN-sis
Description

Tough as nails, drought tolerant, easy to transplant, and pest free are all terms used to describe the Chinese pistache. This beautiful, medium-sized tree is perfect for both the home landscape and the urban environment. This tree is a member of the Anacardiaceae or cashew family. 

An unattractive, almost gawky tree when young, the Chinese pistache develops into an outstanding specimen tree with an umbrella-like crown. At maturity, this tree will achieve a height of 35 feet and a spread of 20 to 30 feet. There are male and female trees.  Its main branches may be upright to arching. Proper pruning when the tree is young is essential to create a symmetrical tree.

This tree is native to Afghanistan China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. It may be found in hilly and mountainous forests of its native range.

The genus name, Pistacia, is derived from the Greek word, pistake, meaning nut. The epithet, chinensis, means from China. 

This tree prefers full sun and is adaptable to most soil and pH types. It is drought, heat, and pollution tolerant. It is long-lived and fire-resistant. 

Chinese pistache has finely divided, lustrous green foliage during the summer months, and terrific fall color, plus exfoliating bark for winter interest. The fiery orange and red leaves make this Asian native one of the prettiest trees in autumn. The male and female flowers emerge in the spring before the leaves. They are dense or loose greenish clusters. The female flower, once pollinated, produces a red drupe that ripens to blue in October and is enjoyed by birds.

The fruits of this tree are inedible; however, the species, Pistacia vera, produces the edible pistachio nuts. 

The Chinese pistache is an excellent choice as a shade or street tree. The brilliant color of the fall foliage and the peeling bark will add more interest to the home landscape, particularly in the fall and winter. Consider this medium-sized ornamental as a specimen, street, or shade tree. It is the perfect size near a patio or garden.

Seasons of Interest:

Bark:  Winter    Foliage:  Summer and Fall       Fruits:  Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • medium-sized deciduous street, 30 to 35 feet tall, 20 to 20 feet wide, umbrella-like canopy
  • grayish-brown, scaly, peeling outer bark that reveals a salmon-colored inner bark
  • male and female greenish flowers, male flowers in dense clusters, and female in loose clusters
  • dark green compound, pinnate, 10 to 12-inches long leaves with 10-12 narrow leaflets, aromatic when bruised
  • red. rounded, 0.25-inch drupe that ripens to blue in the fall

Insect Disease and other Pest Problems: Once established, it becomes carefree with no serious pest or disease problems. It may be susceptible to verticillium wilt. 

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:
  • 'Keith Davey'
    male tree, no fruits
'Keith Davey'
Tags:
#deciduous#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#interesting bark#specimen#winter interest#fall interest#air pollution tolerant#street tree#showy fruits#cpp#children's garden#playground plant#showstopper#edible seeds#exfoliating bark#patio tree#medium size tree#fall color#full sun#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Keith Davey'
    male tree, no fruits
'Keith Davey'
Tags:
#deciduous#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#interesting bark#specimen#winter interest#fall interest#air pollution tolerant#street tree#showy fruits#cpp#children's garden#playground plant#showstopper#edible seeds#exfoliating bark#patio tree#medium size tree#fall color#full sun#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Pistacia
    Species:
    chinensis
    Family:
    Anacardiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Transcaucasus, Afghanistan to China, Taiwan, and the Philippines
    Distribution:
    Native: Afghanistan, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, East Himalaya, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Tibet, Transcaucasus, West Himalaya. Introduced: Tadzhikistan and the United States: AL, AR CA, GA, NC, OK, and TX'
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds are attracted to the fruits.
    Play Value:
    Shade
    Textural
    Wildlife Food Source
    Edibility:
    The fruit is inedible.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 35 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Oval
    Rounded
    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
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Blue
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Nut
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits are drupes that are initially red and ripen to blue in October. They are rounded, .25- inches in diameter, and inedible.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    There are separate male and female trees. The flowers bloom in April and are rather inconspicuous and appear in small, greenish inconspicuous panicles. The male flower is a dense cluster and measures 2 to 3 inches long. The female flower appears as loose clusters that are 7 to 9 inches long. The flowers appear before the leaves. The female flower, once pollinated, develops the fruits.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are compound, dark green, and measure up to 10 inches long. They have 10 to 12 leaflets that are 4 inches long and lanceolate with entire margins. When the leaves are bruised, they are aromatic. The fall color may be shades of fiery red, orange, or yellow.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Fissured
    Peeling
    Ridges
    Scaly
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Rectangle
    Square
    Bark Description:
    The bark is grayish-brown with shallow reddish-brown furrows. It forms rectangular to square flat-topped ridges. Peeling of the outer bark reveals salmon-colored inner bark.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Leaf Scar Shape:
    Heart or shield shaped
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    The stems are stout, grayish-brown, and have many light-colored lenticels. The terminal buds are large, ovate, and have large scales. There are also large raised leaf scars.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Meadow
    Patio
    Recreational Play Area
    Walkways
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Heat
    Pollution