Goldenrain Tree

Goldenrain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)

Summary Data
Goldenrain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)Mature height is 30 to 40’ with a spread of 30 to 40’Zones 5B through 9

The Goldenrain Tree is indeed a special addition to any landscape. Also known as the Varnish Tree, it gives interest and value almost all year long. Don’t confuse the Goldenrain tree with the somewhat similar sounding Goldenchain Tree (Laburnum x watereri) which is in a completely different family.

While most of the flowering trees in this book show their stuff in the spring, here is a tree that flowers in the early summer when few other trees are in bloom. A tree that flowers in the summer is always welcome to a diverse landscape. The Goldenrain Tree has been a star for a long time. Thomas Jefferson received seeds for the Goldenrain Tree in 1809 from his long-time Parisian friend, Madame de Tessé.

This gorgeous tree will grow to 30 to 40 feet tall and as wide in a broad somewhat irregular globe shape. It has curving, twisting branches that are very attractive in the winter so it is not just a one season act. Goldenrain trees have a coarse, open structure, abetted by exotic looking leaves composed of up to 15 coarsely-toothed leaflets which are reduced in size as the tree grows older. The leaves turn orange-yellow in fall. The bark is thin and easily damaged by lawn mowers and string trimmers. The wood tends to be brittle so the tree is a bit vulnerable in heavy wind and ice storms.

Some varieties of the Goldenrain tree will create a spectacular display in May in zone 9 and in July in zone 6 when few other trees bloom. Other varieties do their showing off as late as September. The Goldenrain Tree delights with large 12 to 15 inch panicles of bright yellow flowers which happen to also be attractive to honey bees. Wait, the show is not over. Those beautiful flowers develop into green, lantern-shaped pods which turn yellow, then brown, and eventually release black seeds the size of peas. These seeds stay on the tree almost until spring.

Goldenrain Tree Choices
September is a 1977 Gold Medal (Styer) plant award winner from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. It flowers into September. Chinese Flame Tree (Koelreuteria bipinnata) is a bit less cold hardy and flowers into September. It has rosey-pink fruit capsules. Fastigiata is an upright tree with a narrow growth habit with a height of about 30 feet and a width of only 4 to 6 feet. Rose Lantern has seed pods that are flushed with pink.

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