Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sophora, Kowhai & Pagoda Tree

A genus of 50 or more species of evergreen ( but also a few deciduous ) trees and shrubs that are part of the massive Legume family.
Very easy to grow, most prefer full sun to partial shade on almost any well drained soil. The seed has a very hard coating that is resistant to moisture. To help germination, pour boiling water over them and then leaves them in water for 3 days, then plant them. Some species may also be grown from softwood cuttings.
Some species have been moved to the genus Styphnolobium

Sophora affinis ( Texas Sophora )
Also called Styphnolobium affine. A strong branched, rounded to spreading small, deciduous tree native from Oklahoma to western Arkansas; south to central Texas. A very useful urban tree, the drooping outer twigs give it a graceful elegant effect. Some records include: largest on record - 50 x 35 feet with a trunk diameter of 2.1 feet. Long-lived, the Texas Sophora can well exceed 80 years of age. Used for parking lot plantings in Dallas, Texas. Despite its native range, it surprisingly does grow well in much cooler climates and has exceeded 40 feet in both London, England and Dublin, Ireland. I have not heard of it grown in the U.S. anywhere east of the Mississippi though it may have great potential.
The pinnate leaves, up to 10 inches, are composed of 13 to 19 blunt tipped elliptical leaflets, up to 1.5 x 0.5 inches in size. The foliage is glossy deep green above, light green beneath.
The white with pink tinge flowers are borne in racemes, up to 6 inches in length, during spring.
They are followed in autumn by narrow, black cylindrical pods, up to 3 inches in length, that constrict between the seeds.
The bark is scaly and dark brown.
Hardy zones 7 to 9 ( 6 ) in full sun to partial shade. Tolerant of extreme heat, drought and alkaline or limestone soil.
Seeds germinate easily without pretreatment.

* photo taken by Clarence A. Rechenthin @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* photo taken @ U.S. Botanical Garden, Wash., DC on Aug 25 2014













Sophora alopecuroides
A rhizomatous perennial, reaching up to 4 feet in height, that is native to sandy deserts from Turkey to northern China. It is valuable because it grows where few other plants will. However, it is NOT suitable for grazing cattle - it contains a heart poison that kills cattle.
The attractive pinnate foliage is mid-green above, silvery-white beneath. The leaves are composed of 11 to 27 oblong leaflets, up to 1.6 x 0.6 inches in size.
The white flowers, up to 0.8 inches in length, are borne on upright, terminal panicles during early to mid summer.
Hardy zones 5 to 8 in full sun on very well drained soil. It is very tolerant of saline and alkaline soils.

Sophora cassioides
A fast growing, arching, small tree, reaching up to 30 feet, that is native to Chile.
Some records include: first year - 3 feet; 2nd year - 9 feet.
The large, bright yellow, pendulous, bell-shape flowers are borne in dense clusters before the foliage emerges during spring. Trees begin to flower in the 4th year.
Hardy zones 8 to 10 in partial to full shade on moist, fertile, well drained soil.
Easy to grow.

Sophora chrysophylla ( Mamani Sophora )
A small to medium size evergreen tree native to Hawaii.
Some records include: 3 years - 6.5 feet; 4 years - 8 feet; largest on record - 50 x 42 feet with a trunk diameter of 4.4 feet.
The pinnate leaves, up to 6 inches, are composed of up to 18 leaflets, up to 2 x 0.9 inches in size.
The yellow flowers are borne in panicles during spring
Flowering typically begins during the 4th year.
Hardy zone 10 tolerating as low as 19 F

Sophora davidii ( Veitch Sophora )
A very attractive, moderate growing, bushy, medium-size, deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub with arching branches, that is a widespread native of temperate China. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 4 feet; 10 years - 6.6 x 6.6 feet; largest on record - 13 x 17 feet with stem diameters up to 7 inches having been recorded.
The pinnate leaves, up to 4 x 1.5 inches, are composed of 13 to 19 leaflets, up to 0.8 ( rarely over 0.4 ) inches in length. The foliage is gray-green.
The almost white to purplish-blue flowers are borne in 6 inch terminal panicles during late spring to early summer.
They are followed by narrow seed pods up to 3 inches long.
The spiny branches are downy when young.
Hardy zones 5 to 9 ( 4 on protected sites ) preferring a hot sunny site and just about any well drained soil. Very easy to grow and not generally bothered by disease. It is very drought tolerant and also tolerant of chalky, sandy or alkaline soil. Does not need pruning though old and overgrown plants that are cut back hard in early spring will rapidly regrow. Can be propagated either from seed sown in fall or semi-ripe heeled cuttings.

* photos taken @ U.S. National Arboretum, D.C. on May 1 2010



* photos taken on Oct 21 2014 @ Smithsonian Inst., Washington, DC




* photos taken on Apr 24 2016 @ U.S. National Arboretum, DC



Sophora flavescens ( Korean Cream Pea )
A small to medium-size perennial herb native to far eastern Russia, Mongolia, most of China, Korea and Japan. Some records include: 10 years - 5 feet; largest on record - 6 x 7 feet. It is usually found in alpine meadows in the wild.
The pinnate leaves, up to 10 inches, are composed of 15 to 39 ovate leaflets, up to 2.5 x 0.6 inches in size. The foliage is deep green.
This plant is highly valued for its medicinal properties.
The yellow-white flowers are borne in clusters up to 12 inches in length. They appear early to mid summer.
Hardy zone 4 to 9 ( generally as a dieback shrub in Michigan and Ontario ) in full sun to partial shade on well drained soil.

* photo of unknown source on internet


subsp 'kronei'
Also called Sophora kronei. Larger growing woody form, reaching a maximum size of 37 feet with a trunk diameter of 15 inches.

Sophora japonica ( Japanese Pagoda Tree )
Also called Styphnolobium japonicum, a name I'm not really fond of because most average people can't even pronounce it. It is a rounded large deciduous tree reaching around 70 feet, that is native to China and Korea. It is often planted in much of central & southern Europe and is locally naturalized in parts of France & Romania. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 6 feet; 5 years - 15 feet; 8 years - 25 feet; 20 years - 70 x 50 feet; 40 years - trunk diameter of 2.8 feet; largest on record - 110 x 130 feet with a trunk diameter of 8.3 feet; largest in Michigan - 110 x 110 feet with a trunk diameter of 4 feet; largest in PA - 84 x 102 feet with a trunk diameter of 5.4 feet; largest in Colorado - 70 x 54 feet; longest lived - 800 years. A very large tree grows at Longwood Gardens near Philly, PA. The Japanese Pagoda Tree is a very beautiful shade and street tree of the highest quality.
The pinnate leaves, up to 16 inches, are composed of 7 to 17 pointed, oval leaflets, up to 2 inches in length. The foliage is whitish at first turning to glossy deep green above, downy blue-green beneath. The foliage persists late in autumn, sometimes turning yellow. Even in zone 5, it typically holds its leaves into November, and the ornamental seed pods even later.
The abundant, fragrant, creamy-white flowers, up to an inch in length, are borne in hanging panicles, up to 16 inches in length, at the branch tips during mid-summer.
Flowering is generally best in climates with hot humid summers.
They are followed by clusters of narrow seed pods, up to 5 or rarely 8 inches in length, that constrict between the seeds. The attractive seed pods are yellow-green then in autumn turning to black and persisting though til the end of winter.
The twigs are greenish and the scaly, shallow ridged bark is usually brown but is sometimes gray. The Japanese Pagoda Tree is valued for its fine brown timber.
Hardy zones 4 to 9. Cold hardiness depends on which region of the Pagoda Tree's natural range the seed originates from. Canker generally occurs on trees that are not fully hardy or are stressed, otherwise the Japanese Pagoda Tree is very easy to grow. Additional disease and insect problems are very rare. It prefers full sun to partial shade on deep, fertile, well drained loam soil and a site somewhat protected from excessive winds. It is tolerant of drought, heat, pollution, severe storms and urban conditions but not waterlogged soil.
Young trees should be pruned to a single leader and feathered ( shorten and spacing side branches to develop a strong scaffold ). This tree is typically gradually limbed up in order to walk or drive under.
The Pagoda Tree does not enjoy root disturbance or transplanting; fastest establishment is from small, pot grown trees planted out during early spring.

* photo taken on April 18 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum, DC

* photos taken @ U.S. National Arboretum on May 1 2010

* photos taken on 4th of July 2010 in Washington, D.C.












* photo taken on August 3 2010 @ University of Guelph Arboretum, Ontario

* photo taken on August 4 2010 in Stratford, Ontario

* photo taken on Oct 21 2014 @ Smithsonian Inst., Washington, DC

* historical archive photo

* video found on internet


'Dot'

* photo taken on Oct 17 2015 in Columbia, MD


'Halka'
Less prone to canker. Hardy zone 5 to 9.

'Pendula'
Weeping in habit; it is typically grafted onto the upright trunk of Sophora japonica. Some records include: 20 years - 17 x 17 feet; largest on record - 40 x 40 feet with a trunk diameter of 3 feet. An excellent lawn tree and has an attractive winter outline.

* photos taken by Milan Havlis, owner of central Europe's premier plant nursery


* historical archive photos



* historical archive photo


'Pubescens'
Extremely rare. Larger leaflets, up to 3.5 inches in length.

'Regent'
Exceptionally fast and straighter growing. Disease resistant ( esp. stem canker ) and very heat tolerant. It also resists leafhopper.

* photo taken by Milan Havlis, owner of central Europe's premier plant nursery


'Variegata'
Extremely rare though it goes grow at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Likely only reaches 60 feet.

'Violacea'
Pale mauve pink flowers.

'White Dome'
Large 3 inch leaflets.

Sophora macrocarpa
A small evergreen tree native to Chile. Some records include: largest on record - 66 feet
The pinnate leaves, up to 6 inches, are composed of up to 25 leaflets, up to 1.7 inches in size. The foliage is covered in fine brown hairs.
Up to 12 yellow flowers are borne in dense panicles during summer.
Hardy zones 9 to 11

Sophora microphylla ( Kowhai )
A moderate growing dense, broadly spreading small evergreen tree native to New Zealand; however some trees may become briefly deciduous during flowering.
Some records include: 5 years - 10 feet; 20 years - 20 x 20 feet; largest on record - 40 x 33 feet with a trunk diameter of 2 feet.
The pinnate leaves, up to 8 inches, are composed of many untoothed, oblong leaflets, up to 0.5 inches in size. The foliage is olive-green to deep-green above, dull green beneath.
The golden-yellow, bell-shaped flowers, up to 2 inches long, are borne in drooping racemes during late winter into spring.
They are followed by winged brown seed pods, up to 8 inches in length.
The twigs zig-zag. The smooth gray-brown bark has small lenticels.
Hardy zones 8 to 10 tolerating as low as 4 F though becoming deciduous. Prefers cool summers and a site somewhat sheltered from wind. Very drought tolerant.

* photo of unknown internet source



'Sun King'
Slightly hardier, north to zone 8a.

Sophora mollis
A medium-size shrub, reaching a maximum height of 7 ( rarely over 3 ) feet, that is native to the Himalayas ( from Iran to Afghanistan to Yunnan Province in China; south to northern India ).
The pinnate leaves, up to 10 inches, are composed of up to 11 to 35 ( average 23 ) stiff leaflets, up to 1 x 0.6 inches in size. The foliage is downy and silvery-gray.
The bright yellow flowers, up to 0.7 inches across are borne in 4 inch panicles during mid-spring into early summer.
They are followed by short seed pods up to 5 inches in length.
Hardy zones 8 to 10

Sophora prostrata ( Dwarf Kowhai )
A dense low growing shrub native to New Zealand. Some records include: 5 years - 3.3 feet; largest on record - 6.6 x 7 feet.
The pinnate leaves, up to 1.3 inches, are composed of up to 16 leaflets, up to 0.3 inches in size. The foliage is deep green.
The deep yellow to bright orange flowers are borne in panicles during late winter.
The twigs are zig-zagged.
Hardy zones 7 to 10 in full sun to partial shade on well drained soil. Very drought tolerant.

Sophora secundiflora ( Mescalbean )
Also called Calia secundiflora. A dense small evergreen tree native to New Mexico, central to southern Texas and northern Mexico. Some recorded growth rates: 3 years - 10 feet ( record ); 8 years - 6.5 feet ( average ); 12 years - 8 feet ( average ); largest on record - 50 x 36 feet with a trunk diameter of 2 feet. The Mescalbean casts a welcome dense shade in the extremely hot climate where it growns.
The pinnate leaves, up to 7 inches, are composed of 7 to 9 elliptical leaflets, up to 3 x 2 ( rarely over 2 ) inches in size. The leathery foliage is glossy deep green above, whitish beneath.
The spectacular, sweetly very fragrant, wisteria-like, violet-blue flowers, up to an inch long, are borne in panicles, up to 5 inches in length, during early spring. White flowering trees occur but are rare.
They are followed by cylindrical hairy silvery-gray seedpods, up to 8 x 1 inches. The seedpods constrict between the scarlet-red seeds. The seeds contain poisonous alkaloid.
The bark is gray. The very heavy wood is hard and close grained.
Hardy zones 7 to 10 ( tolerating at least as low as 0 F ) preferring full sun and a somewhat light or sandy well drained soil, though not terribly fussy. It is very tolerant of alkaline soil. The roots do fix their own nitrogen enabling this tree to grow on nutrient poor soils. Some trees of New Mexico origin may even be hardy in zone 6 though more testing is needed.
The Mescalbean is not known to grow in the humid eastern U.S. Very tolerant of heat ( even in southern Arizona ) as well as alkaline soil. Also deer resistant. Mescal Bean hates transplanting due to its deep taproot and takes 1+ years to establish and grow. Plants can be purchased small in containers. It grows much faster in cultivation if fertilized. Drench soil with fungicide before sowing. Pretreated seeds germinate in 2 weeks. Pretreatment includes soaking the seeds in water for 2 weeks to loosen the seed coats. They require partial shade for the first year. Propagation is also reported from cuttings of young shoots during mid summer.
Pharmacology: this tree contains hallucinogenic or nacrotic chamicals. 1/2 of a seed produces intoxication, any more is poisonous. Before year 1000, the natives of Texas brewed a hallucinogenic drink for ceremonies that was made from a mixture of mescal (Agave) and powder ground from a seed to connect with the spirit world.

* photo taken by Clarence A. Rechenthin @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database


* photo taken @ U.S. Botanical Garden, Wash., DC on Aug 25 2014





'Silver Peso'
Intensely silvery-gray foliage; otherwise identical to species.

Sophora tetraptera ( Yellow Kowhai )
A fast growing small briefly deciduous ( during flowering ) tree native to New Zealand and Chile.
It is the national flower of New Zealand. Some records include: 20 years - 33 x 33 feet; largest on record - 50 x 50 feet with a trunk diameter of 2.6 feet.
The pinnate leaves, up to 8 inches, are composed of up to 20 to 80 elliptical leaflets, up to 1.5 inches in size. The foliage is finely brown downy at first, turning to deep green.
The very profuse, golden-yellow flowers, up to 2 inches long, are borne in drooping panicles during spring.
They are followed by hanging winged pods up to 8 inches in length.
Hardy zones 8 to 10 ( tolerating 10 F or colder ) preferring full sun on moist, well drained soil and a site somewhat protected from excessive wind. Drought tolerant but does not grow well where summers are excessively hot.
Propagation is from semi-ripe cuttings taken during summer or seed sown during autumn.

'Grandiflora'
Larger than average flowers.

Sophora tomentosa ( Silverbush )
A fast growing, deciduous large shrub to small tree native to Africa and tropical Asia. Some records include: 5 years - 4.5 feet; largest on record - 30 feet.
The pinnate leaves, up to 14 inches, are composed of up to 21 leaflets, up to 2 inches in size. The foliage is covered in silvery-gray down.
The bright yellow-green flowers are borne in panicles, up to 8 inches in length.
The twigs are covered in silvery-gray down.
Hardy zones 9 to 12. It is tolerant of drought and wind and also very salt tolerant. Extremely heat tolerant, it even thrives in Yuma, AZ ( Americans hottest city ).

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