“What is this tree?
I’ve never seen anything like it” related Kathy B. while visiting Levy Extension office. Fleetingly beautiful, the bloom and fruit of rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, golden rain tree or flamegold tree captures the eye. 12-15” inch stalks of clustered yellow flowers crown irregularly shaped canopy in early summer. But the spectacular show arrives as colorful fruit replace yellow panicles. The fruit are actually a three part inflated pod, 1-3 inches long. Throughout the summer, pods morph from orange to pink-magenta. Multiple colors are often displayed on the same tree!
Because I am frequently on north 27A at CR337, Bronson, I can appreciate the rain tree found there. Today, portions of the tree remind me of storm damaged trees post-Irma. However these are not dead branches but tan/brown paper thin maturing fruit. By design, the lantern-like fruit will fall releasing several 5-8 mm (.19 – .3 inches) sized brown to black, hard round seeds.
“Where can I plant this tree?”
Provide full sun for best flowering. Full sun means more than 6 hours of direct light daily. Rain tree has moderate to fast growth rate. It tolerates a wide range of soil type and conditions. Good news, rain tree tolerates salt spray in well drained soils. Considered large maturing tree 30-40 feet tall and easily as wide. Plant for mature size. Minimize conflicts with a mower as large surface roots are common. Plant rain tree as an ornamental and flowering specimen. It is one of a few yellow flowering trees.
While native to Japan, China and Korea, it is not considered an invasive species in north Florida. However gardeners in south and central Florida should use caution, according to UF’s Invasive Assessment Working Group. Due to the prolific seed production, if you want to remove it, here are some tips.
“If I plant one, how long before it blooms?”
That’s a loaded question. Under optimal conditions, perhaps 3 years. In the meantime, green, open canopy blends with native palm and oaks. Prune early to develop strong branch structure. Space major branches around and along the trunk. Vertically allow 12-18” between branches.
Review tips to plant and establish trees in Florida sandy soils. Later you’ll be rewarded with glorious bloom and fruit display. Until next time ~ Happy Gardening!