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Golden Raintree – They’re colorful BUT…

Each fall, Floridians are suddenly “wowed” by the sight of golden raintrees blooming along the roadsides. Vivid yellow flowers are followed by equally distinctive pink or peach-colored “paper lanterns.”

 

(More on those “paper lanterns” in just a second…) 

 

Often, a tree will have both flowers AND “paper lanterns,” giving an impressive two-toned fall show…

Images of leaves and flowers from golden raintrees

HOWEVER… that beauty comes with a price:

Golden raintree seed pods and flowers - labeled with species name and "invasive" "FISC Category 2" "non-native to Florida"

IMPACTS:
Remember those “paper lanterns” I mentioned a second ago? Those are actually the unique seed pods of these trees. Each pod contains several seeds. And each tree can produce THOUSANDS of pods. Literally… every year.

 

These tree seedlings can become extremely weedy. They have VERY high germination rates. And in favorable conditions, they can crowd out other species of plants.

Small seedlings of golden raintrees
ALSO… Did I mention the bugs?

 

Yes, more specifically, golden raintrees will attract writhing swarms of red-staining insects that suddenly appear in plague-like proportions… wherever golden raintrees are growing. In fact, jadera bugs are often simply referred to as the “golden raintree bugs.”
Hundreds of small jadera bugs huddle together side by side

Jadera bugs – Photo by Ronald Sperry

If you’ve never witnessed the ground or walls absolutely coated in a writhing mass of these little red bugs, (or encountered the stains they leave on clothing), count yourself fortunate – it’s not something you’ll soon forget!

 

Still want one?
Now, in case you’re somehow STILL thinking these trees are pretty enough to overlook all those other things… here’s something else to consider… Golden raintrees are very fast-growing.

 

Before you get excited… it’s important to understand that “fast-growing” might seem like a good quality, but it’s typically NOT a good characteristic for trees, especially here in FL.
Fast growth = weak wood
Like many fast-growing trees, golden raintrees produce relatively weak wood, and therefore have a tendency to lose limbs in high winds.

 

(In case you’re new here…. Hi – Welcome to FL! We occasionally have, um… high winds. Choose your trees wisely…)

The takeaway:
Because of their prolific seed production, the high viability of the seeds, and the other issues listed above, any existing golden raintrees should be carefully managed (or removed) to prevent escape into natural areas, and it’s recommended that new plantings should be avoided in favor of better Florida-Friendly tree selections.

 

 

 

Looking for a better tree option? Check out these helpful plant selection guides below –

THE PLANT SELECTION GUIDES!

Florida-Friendly Landscaping isn’t a single look or style. It’s all about choosing the plants that work best for your particular site conditions & style. It means less watering, less pruning, less fertilizing, and less spraying… and more enjoying!

Find the perfect plants to bring your ideal landscape to life. Check out these helpful interactive guides!

Waterwise Plant Selection Guide This is a very user-friendly, searchable online plant selection guide from Saint Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD). It includes both native & non-invasive “Florida-Friendly” options. The guide allows you to select plant type (i.e. groundcover, flower, ferns, trees, vines, etc.), soil conditions, salt tolerance, plant height, growth characteristics, flower color, etc. It includes photos for many plants. (Bonus – If you want to search for a plant by name, but aren’t sure exactly how to spell it, this guide includes a helpful “sounds-like” search option!)

Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) Plant Selection Guide  This is a searchable plant selection guide specifically for Florida’s native plants. This guide allows you to search for specific plants by name, or to choose your range/county, select site characteristics, salt tolerance, etc. and generate a list of suitable plants for your site. Recently updated with improved navigation & new photos!

Florida-Friendly Landscaping Plant Selection GuideThis is the online version of the popular Florida-Friendly Landscaping Plant Selection Guide, and it has recently been updated too! Browse the entire plant list, or search for site-appropriate plants using a variety of filters. The database includes native & non-invasive “Florida-Friendly” options. (Also available as a FREE mobile app!)

Florida-Friendly Landscaping Butterfly Garden AppPlant lists, design and gardening tips, and butterfly guides are at your fingertips with the UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program’s free Butterfly Gardens mobile web app.

Florida-Friendly Landscaping Bee Garden AppFlorida is home to an amazing diversity of bees. This resource provides plant lists, design and gardening tips, and bee guides, right at your fingertips.

And if you’re really looking to add some fabulous #FloridaFallColor to your landscape, check out this previous post about Florida Fall Color!

Tiny berries clustered around beautyberry stem Abundant miniature sunflowers alongside feathery fern fronds Feathery pink plumes of muhly grass sway in the breeze

 


Florida-Friendly Landscaping FAQs – Find answers to the most common FFL-related questions.

 


FINAL, FINAL NOTES: Confusingly, there are actually three different, but closely related species in the genus Koelreuteria which sometimes go by the same common name – “golden raintree.” There are a few subtle differences between the leaves and cold-tolerance of each species, but for the most part, the names are used interchangeably, and it’s difficult to know which you’re looking at without a close-up look at the leaf structure. The three species are:

  • Koelreuteria bipinnata (a.k.a. the Chinese Flame-Tree)
  • Koelreuteria elegans (a.k.a. Golden Raintree, or Flamegold)
  • Koelreuteria paniculata (a.k.a. Golden Raintree)

 

Got it?

 

In researching for this blog post, several things became clear:

 

1) There is a lot of potential for confusion surrounding the true species identity of a “golden raintree.”

 

2) There is a considerable amount of conflicting and contradictory information about the invasiveness of “golden raintrees.”

 

3) It is unclear whether the lack of agreement about their invasiveness is due to actual differences in the behavior of the three different species, or differences in habitat suitability across various parts of the state, or perhaps just due to increased awareness of their invasive tendencies since the original publication of certain articles and fact-sheets. Ultimately, that is a discussion which is beyond the scope for this blog post. When you see them blooming, appreciate them from afar as a signal of the changing seasons & approaching holidays, but avoid the urge to introduce a problem tree into your landscape when there are better alternatives available.

Happy fall y’all.

 

By Frank Galdo

About the Author:

The author on a hike

As one of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping (FFL) Program Coordinators in Pasco County, my goal is to help show that vibrant, resilient landscapes DON’T require constant inputs of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. It’s all about “working smarter, not harder!”

Through an innovative collaboration with Pasco County Utilities, I also provide targeted on-site landscape & irrigation troubleshooting to help individuals and communities identified as high water users. My motto is – Less guesswork, better landscapes.” I can be reached at fgaldo@ufl.edu

 

Thirsty for more FFL knowledge? Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter!

Have a question, or an idea for a future post? Let me know at fgaldo@ufl.edu or leave a comment below.

 


About UF/IFAS Extension: UF/IFAS Extension serves as a source of non-biased, research-based information for the residents, businesses, and communities of Florida, providing educational materials and programs for adults and youth. We proudly “provide solutions for your life.”

Pollinator / good bug research plot on a golf course

(Not in Pasco County? Not a problem! Click here to find your local UF/IFAS Extension office!)

UF/IFAS Extension Is An Equal Opportunity Institution.

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