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Golden Rain Tree

(November 2011)

QuestionThe Conservation District in our county in their "Beautification Tree Project" offered a choice of thirteen ornamental trees for sale. Some were native, others included some alien invasive species, such as Cleveland Pear and the Mimosa tree. What is the effect of adding these trees to our landscape and neighborhoods? As good stewards what should be recommended or omitted from planting in our communities?

AnswerIn looking at the plant list I have to commend them for making some great trees available at really good prices. Two named cultivars of red maple, the native fringe tree, dogwood and tulip poplar, in addition to yellowwood, smoke tree, redbud and golden raintree are great trees. It looks like they are going for trees that have some form of color, whether from flowers or from fall foliage. The Cleveland pear fits the bill, but is not high on my list of favorites. It is a smaller adult form of the ornamental pear which we collectively often call Bradford, but it still can fruit and become invasive. We have seedling callery pears coming up all over our state. The mimosa, however, I do consider a trash tree. Many folks like them, but they often suffer from mimosa wilt and send up seedlings, so not a good choice.

(Sept. 2010)

QuestionI collected some seed pods from a tree growing near the Fayetteville Courthouse this week. Each frond contained at least 10 to 20 pods. The pods had three lobes, heart shaped, containing 3 to 5 round, almost black seed, about the size of a pea, and the pods shattered very easily when crushed. The trees appeared elm in size and shape of crown. My question is what is the species, and can the seeds be planted to start a new tree. If so, what is the protocol for planting.

AnswerIt looks like seeds of the golden raintree-- Koelreuteria paniculata. The seeds need to be scarified (rub them between sand paper or soak them in hot water and let them stand for 24 hours) and then placed in moist peat moss in a plastic bag for at least 90 days. This cool moist storage process is known as stratification. The seeds need to go through both scarifying (helping to break the hard impermeable seed coat) and then stratified (which they would get naturally outdoors in the winter) before they germinate. Once you do this, the seeds actually germinate quite nicely.

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