Cercidiphyllum japonicum

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Cercidiphyllum japonicum
The "Great Katsura of Wachi", Torokawataira, Kami, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Saxifragales
Family: Cercidiphyllaceae
Genus: Cercidiphyllum
C. japonicum
Binomial name
Cercidiphyllum japonicum

Cercidiphyllum japonicum, known as the Katsura (from its Japanese name カツラ, 桂), is a species of flowering tree in the family Cercidiphyllaceae native to China and Japan. It is sometimes called caramel tree for the light caramel smell it emits during leaf fall.[2]


The tree is deciduous and grows to 10–45 meters tall, with a trunk diameter of up to 2 meters (rarely more).[3][4][5]

Closeup of leaves, showing seasonal coloration

The shoots are dimorphic, with long shoots forming the structure of the branches and short shoots being born from their second year onward. The leaves are produced in opposite pairs on long shoots and singly on short shoots; they have a 1.4–4.7 cm petiole, and are rounded with a heart-shaped base and a crenate margin. Leaves on short shoots are larger, 3.7–9 cm long and 5–8.3 cm broad, and those on long shoots smaller, being 3.2–4.5 cm long and 1.9–3.2 cm broad. The leaves turn a variety of pinks and yellows in autumn and sometimes have a distinctive caramel scent when in fresh autumn colors. The flowers are inconspicuous and produced in early spring among the opening leaves, with male and female flowers on separate plants (dioecious). The fruit is a cluster of two to four follicles 1–1.8 cm long and 2–3 mm wide with each follicle containing several winged seeds.[3][4]


A Cercidiphyllum japonicum branch with fruit.

The species is listed as endangered in China, but overall when Japanese populations are included C. japonicum is classified as being lower risk.[5] The Chinese populations were sometimes distinguished in the past as Cercidiphyllum japonicum var. sinense Rehder & E.H.Wilson, but this is now generally regarded as not distinct from the species.[3][4]


A katsura plank

Katsura is a popular ornamental tree in Japan as well as elsewhere. In Japan, it is also grown for its timber, which is used for construction and woodworking.

Several different cultivars are grown, including 'Aureum', 'Heronswood Globe', and 'Ruby'. The following have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit (confirmed 2017):[6]

  • C. japonicum[7]
  • C. japonicum 'Heronswood Globe'[8]
  • C. japonicum f. pendulum[9]



  1. ^ Barstow, M. (2020). "Cercidiphyllum japonicum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T32332A67739810. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-1.RLTS.T32332A67739810.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ Katsura - the Caramel tree. In h2g2.com.
  3. ^ a b c Andrews, S. (1998, 1999). Tree of the Year: Cercidiphyllum japonicum. International Dendrology Society Yearbook 1997: 17-45; 1998: 33-38.
  4. ^ a b c Flora of China: Cercidiphyllum japonicum
  5. ^ a b Chen, C., Liu, Y-H., Fu, C-X., & Qiu, Y-X. (2010). New microsatellite markers for the rare plant Cercidiphyllum japonicum and their utility for Cercidiphyllum magnificum. Amer. J. Bot. 97 (9): e82–e84 full text.
  6. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 17. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  7. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Cercidiphyllum japonicum". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  8. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Heronswood Globe'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  9. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Cercidiphyllum japonicum f. pendulum". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 21 January 2018.

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