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Tree Project.

Cercidiphyllum Japonicum - Katsura.

There is only one genus and there are two species of Cercidiphyllum, or Katsura trees, and those are Cercidiphyllum Japonicum and Cercidiphyllum Magnificum. Cercidiphyllum trees have a strong, sweet smell in the Autumn and in German this gives rise to the name “Kuchenbaum,” (Pie Tree) or “Lebkuchenbaum.” ("Gingerbread Tree.")
Cercidiphyllum Magnificum grows at high altitudes on the main Japanese island of Honshu. Although called “Magnificum,” it is a relatively small tree growing to only 10 m tall with smoother bark and larger leaves than Japonicum.
Cercidiphyllum Japonicum is a medium to large, deciduous tree, that can grow to over 40-50 ft tall and 25-35 ft wide.
It may take 50 years and more for a Katsura tree to reach this size as they are slow growing although, in Japan, they can reach 150 feet and are the largest cultivated hardwood of that country. It's claimed that Katsuras can live to over 1,000 years of age, because they have few problems from pests and diseases

Several cultivars of Cercidiphyllum Japonicum that have pendulous, or weeping branches exist although, of Cercidiphyllum Japonicum pendulum there are only two main types. Some that have a strong central leader all belong to one clone known as 'Morioka Weeping.' This variety can easily grow to over 80 ft, but the other type is smaller and doesn’t grow a central leader growing instead with a rounded, or domed shape. There are several clones of this including, 'Amazing Grace' and 'Tidal Wave' that are readily available from nursery’s.

Katsura Trees need full sun, or part shade and are best grown in a damp, woodland type setting as they need permanently moist, organically rich, deep soil and will not tolerate drought. Planted in the right conditions they need very little care although they can have a varied growth rate with different conditions. Katsura Trees grow naturally in both China and Japan but grow in woodlands in Japan and more open areas in China.

In spring the buds break to give the young leaves which have a magnificent bronze, or pink colour. As the seasons change, the leaves turn bright green, and then in the autumn, turn bright gold and orange. In Autumn the Leaves also give out a sugary fragrance reminiscent of candy-floss that fills the air.
In Spring Katsura Trees have Male and Female Flowers on bare branches on separate trees with Male flowers being pale-red colour and Female flowers a greenish white colour. However, neither the Flowers nor subsequent fruits make much of show as the Flowers are Wind pollinated and the flat, winged seeds, that come out of the Fruits, are dispersed by wind as well. The Fruits mature in autumn and the seeds are released from then on and throughout the winter.
Cold Winter weather and late Spring Frosts may well damage Leaves and young shoots. Damage can be pruned away, but normally pruning is best done during Winter. Katsura Trees will often sucker from the base and this will result in trees becoming multi-stemmed. It is possible to prune out these shoots, but not advisable, as Cercidiphyllum does not respond well to pruning.
If pruning is carried out though, cuttings may be rooted, although trees are easy to grow from seed and I speak from experience.
Because trees are wind pollinated and Seed dispersal is by wind, trees have little value to Wildlife. However, in Japan, Katsura wood does have value as it is often harvested to make “Gobans,” or boards for the enormously popular Chinese game of “Go.”

Katsuras are very “friendly, “ trees as they are not susceptible to many pests and are disease free, the leaves and fruit are not thought to be poisonous to humans, or pets, and trees are not invasive. Added to the attraction of their Leaves with their fantastic changing colours and heavenly scent in the Autumn, Katsura trees make a very appealing tree to plant in a garden setting, if conditions are right for them.



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