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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Koelreuteria bipinnata - Chinese Flame Tree

The Chinese Flame tree is much more common in Santa Cruz than its relative K. paniculata (Golden Rain Tree). A medium sized deciduous tree with a broadly spreading to rounded crown to slightly upright. They are enjoyed for their beautiful flowers (not always seen here), interesting fruit and mildly attractive yellow fall color. Often single stemmed but can be seen multi-stemmed around town, Grows slow to 20-30'. Native to China. These are on Park in Aptos.



The foliage is bipinnately compound, quite large, 1-2' long, and about the same width. Side leaflets are compound with 8 or so leaflets, each about 2-3" long, elliptical with a pointed tip and entire (smooth) or slightly serrated margins and a strong stout petoile.



Young stems are thick, green with distinct lenticels. Notice the base of the petioles how they are grooved to make way for the bud. (I am sure there is a term for that, have to look it up someday.)



Older stems and truck are gray-brown with orange in the shallow fissures.



Flowers are very attractive, bright yellow on long racemes (unbranched), and develop late in summer, usually July or August, sometimes not at all.



Fruit is pretty interesting. The seeds are enclosed in a papery seed coat looking like a Japanese lantern. The fruit start out green but develop into an attractive pink or red late fall. They eventually turn brown.





Misidentification?
Well, could be the K. paniculata, look at the leaves 10-14" long vs almost 2 feet, leaflets which have toothed or lobes margins rather than entire, and the stems are not covered with lenticles.  This is also a bigger tree generally.
Might also be Alianthus altissima but the leaves are only pinnately compound but they do look sort of similar.

Location:
Aptos
As shown these are on Park Ave between the freeway and Soquel Dr.

Santa Cruz
Nice one downtown on Rose Alley off Chestnut.

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