The katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) originated in Japan and China. The katsura has attractive foliage, with leaves that turn a vivid yellow or red in autumn. Some municipalities use it as a street tree or as a car park tree. It also makes a good shade tree. Even with these strong points, growing katsuras presents gardeners with several challenges.
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The katsura tree is susceptible to leaf scorch, a widespread plant disorder. Symptoms include the leaf edges turning brown and a yellowing of the areas between the primary leaf veins, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Dry weather, high winds and exposure to very bright sunshine can all cause leaf scorch in katsuras. In some instances, the leaves might fall off in late summer rather than autumn. Repeated instances of leaf scorch can make the tree more vulnerable to insects and disease.
Flower and Fruit
Unlike some trees grown for their showy blossoms or fruit, the fruit and flowers of the katsura do not possess any visual interest. The small green flowers bloom in the spring before the leaves appear. Male and female flowers blossom on separate trees, making them dioecious. Like the flowers, the inconspicuous fruits do not have any ornamental value. Small hard pods, they do not even have the virtue of attracting wildlife.
The katsura presents more pruning problems than many other types of trees. Because the branches start to droop as the tree matures, lower branches might need pruning to allow for pedestrians to pass under the canopy. Katsuras also have a tendency to grow multiple main stems. Gardeners who want a tree with a single trunk will need to train their young katsuras with regular pruning to grow only one main stem.
Katsuras do not have a high tolerance for drought. You need to carefully monitor the tree's moisture requirements during a period of extended dry weather. The branches of the katsura tend to break easily. Don't plant the tree in a site subject to high winds. It's difficult to transplant katsuras, so pick the planting location carefully. The tree needs moist soil and might not flourish in dry or sandy soil.
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