Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree)


Richard discovered a Katsura in a friend’s yard in NW Portland. It had everything he was looking for in a tree: slow-growing, with a graceful shape and small, heart-shaped leaves to provide dappled shade. When the leaves fall, they do not compact into a solid, soggy mass like the maple leaves do, but float delicately to the ground and quickly decompose with no need for raking.

from afar

I love the way it glows against the background of the dark cedar trees.

looking up

Looking up, it shimmers against a blue sky.

heart-shaped leaves

Looking for more info for this post, I discovered that the botanical name for the Katsura tree is Cercidiphyllum japonicum, it likes moderate watering during dry spells and it emits a smell most often described as caramel in the fall. I had to squash the leaves to get any hint of scent, but then my olfactory sense is not the greatest.


We haven’t much in the way of fall color around here, now that the sourwood bit the dust, but this week’s favorite is doing its best to make up for that. Learn more at Great Plant Picks and then pop over to Danger Garden to see what Loree has in store for you this week.

13 thoughts on “Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree)

  1. I took a wrong turn somewhere in North Portland this past weekend and ended up in some corporate office park…but it was line with Katsura trees…and the smell was heavenly!

  2. I love Katsura trees! Wish I had space enough for one. (O.K. I wish I had space that wasn’t already filled with just about everything else.) Yours looks especially nice in its splendid autumn garb.

  3. I readily admit to being tree stupid and until now I wouldn’t have known a Katsura if it bit me on the, well, you know. I love the color and form, and now I have to find one to see if I get the smell, thanks Ricki!

  4. Beautiful yellow fall color, and what an intensely blue sky in the last photo. I just love heart-shaped leaves. That is a funny name, leaves like those of a redbud tree, Cercis. The redbud tree could just as well be named Katsuraphyllum.

  5. Linda~For such a big honker, my nose doesn’t work as well as your cute little one.

    Scott~There are no wrong turns.

    Heather~Our gardens are going to start looking more and more alike.

    Peter~You can come look at mine any time.

    Loree~I’m just starting to learn more about trees. How much can we cram into our meager brains?

    Hannah~You’ve got me thinking…maybe the “cerci” part has something to do with the leaf shape?

    Mark & Gaz~Yes, the scent seems to be a huge part of its popularity.

  6. Out on a dog walk this morning I happened upon a tree I was pretty sure was a Katsura, based on your photos. I crossed the street taking deep breaths and then it hit me…oh ya! Burnt sugar/caramel and so so wonderful. Thanks again for opening my eyes (and nose) to this tree.

  7. I have yet to detect the fragrance of the leaves either. But I love this tree, as common as it’s become in Portland. Mine turns russet and burgundy in the fall – I love that too, even though I purchased it with yellow fall color in mind. Mine has grown so much since planting 3 years ago — I don’t think I would call it a slow grower. If I were to do it again, I would plant the smaller ‘Heronswood Globe.’

  8. Loree~I brought some leaves into the house, crushed them in my hand and now I get it too.

    Julie~Russet and burgundy would be swell. Do you suppose it has to do with composition of the soil?

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