Featured Tree: Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum)

February 14, 2016

by Natalie Hamilton

Cercidiphyllum japonicum, or the katsura tree

Photo courtesy of the city of Portland Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

This week’s tree is Cercidiphyllum japonicum, or the katsura tree. Although it is native to Japan and China, it does well in areas designated under USDA plant hardiness zones 4b-8. This means it would thrive in our cooler midwestern climate. These trees typically grow to around 40-60 feet tall but have been known to reach heights of 100 feet tall or more in special circumstances. Katsuras prefer moist soil and should be planted in areas where they can receive partial to full sun.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum, or the katsura tree

Photo courtesy of Heritage Seedlings & Liners

The katsura is known to be a moderate-to-fast growing tree with a pyramidal to a more arched form at maturity. This tree has brilliant autumn foliage, making it a particularly attractive ornamental choice. The leaves can be shades of yellow-gold, bright orange, and deep red. It’s said to have a spicy, almost brown sugar, scent before the leaves drop for winter. Living in a state where salt is used on the road throughout the winter months can make plant and tree selections burdensome. Many plants suffer dieback injury and stunted growth by overexposure to salt spray. This tree, however, is salt tolerant, making it even more appealing.

In 2015 the UFORE lab received its first tree nursery stock. Soon after, we planted a trial in Minneapolis to test and become more familiar with the katsura’s hardiness and growth habit in our local area. A new trial will be planted this year in downtown St. Paul. We are continuously producing our own seedlings from seeds, which will be used for grow tube trials. 

Katsura tree leaves

Photo courtesy of Jean-Pol Grandmont

An article called “The Five Percent Solution,” written by South Dakota University’s Professor John Ball, discusses selecting climatic adaptive species in the north central region of the United States, and stresses the importance of expanding species diversity. The katsura tree would be an excellent example of a tree that would broaden Minnesota’s species diversity, as well as make a great rendition to any landscaped area or home owners yard as a beautiful ornamental shade tree.


  1. Kelly, Bridget. “What Is a Katsura Tree?” Home Guides. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://sfg.ly/1nZdQTt>.
  2. Grant, Bonnie L. “Katsura Tree Care – Information About Growing Katsura Trees.” Gardening Know How, 25 May 2014. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://bit.ly/1Q9fWg5>.
  3. “Katsura Tree.” Trees & Plants. The Morton Arboretum, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://bit.ly/1PDlHNK>.


  1. Grandmont, Jean-Pol. Cercidiphyllum Japonicum. 2007. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://bit.ly/1LhtDCv>.
  2. Heritage Seedlings & Liners. Katsura Tree. N.d. Cercidiphyllum Japonicum. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://bit.ly/1V4gAtA>.
  3. Parks and Recreation Department of Portland Oregon. Tree#159. N.d. Cercidiphyllum Japonicum. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://bit.ly/1T84sIL>.