Cercidiphyllum japonicum

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Cercidiphyllum japonicum
Great katsura of wachi01s3000.jpg
The "great Katsura of Wachi", Torokawataira, Kami, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Saxifragales
Family: Cercidiphyllaceae
Genus: Cercidiphyllum
Species: C. japonicum
Binomial name
Cercidiphyllum japonicum
Siebold & Zucc.

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.[1]

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

Closeup of leaves, showing seasonal coloration

The shoots are dimorphic, with long shoots forming the structure of the branches, and bearing short shoots 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, 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 colours. The flowers are inconspicuous, 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, each follicle containing several winged seeds.[2][3]

Branch with fruit

The species is listed as Endangered in China, but overall (including Japanese populations), is classified as being Lower Risk.[4] 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 type.[2][3] Several different cultivars are grown, including 'Aureum', 'Heronswood Globe', and 'Ruby'.


  1. ^ Katsura - the Caramel tree. In h2g2.com.
  2. ^ a b c Andrews, S. (1998, 1999). Tree of the Year: Cercidiphyllum japonicum. International Dendrology Society Yearbook 1997: 17-45; 1998: 33-38.
  3. ^ a b c Flora of China: Cercidiphyllum japonicum
  4. ^ 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.