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Types of Japanese Trees

shibakawa image by Craig Hanson from

Most of Japan falls in a temperate weather zone. The seasons are markedly different for this series of islands surrounded by ocean. Between spring and summer in Japan is a rainy season. This rain enables the plants to survive the dry summer when the temperature does not fall below 77 degrees F. Typhoons inundate Japan throughout the fall, giving the plants the water supply for the dry winter. The typical winter temperature is 35 degrees F. Some areas receive 6 feet of snow in the winter.

Japanese Pagoda

Japanese pagoda (Sophora japonica) is also called the Chinese scholar tree. This deciduous tree has a rapid growth rate and reaches 50 to 75 feet tall. In compact soil, the Japanese pagoda tree grows 30 to 40 feet in height. The bright green leaves are made up of 9 to 15 leaflets growing along a main stem. These leaf groupings reach 6 to 10 inches long. The leaves turn yellow in autumn. The Japanese pagoda tree blooms when it turns 10 to 15 years old late in summer and early in fall. The 10- to 15-inch upright clusters are created of creamy-white, pea-like blossoms on the branch ends. These flowers live for about one month. Seed pods appear after the flowers fade. The pods are 6 to 8 inches long and last throughout part of the winter. Japanese pagoda trees tolerate city conditions, excess heat and drought.

Japanese Tree Lilac

lilac image by Aidairi from

Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulate) is a small deciduous tree growing 20 to 30 feet tall. Its stiff branches spread 15 to 25 feet wide. This moderately growing tree has a natural, rounded shape. The dark green, oval leaves are 2 to 5 inches long, growing on pale green stalks. Japanese tree lilac grows leaves in the early spring. Fragrant, off-white blossoms cluster together in triangular groups up to 12 inches across on the ends of the branches. Tan-colored capsules follow the fading flowers. Japanese tree lilac is native to northern Japan and does not grow well in warmer climates.


Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is a rapidly growing deciduous tree. Young katsura trees naturally grow in a pyramid shape. The stiff, arching branches spread 20 to 40 feet wide. This tree grows 40 to 60 feet in height. New leaves appear reddish-purple and turn blue green in summer when they reach 2 to 4 inches long. The leaves turn yellow to light orange in the fall. Katsura flowers are tiny and not a significant ornamental feature. This tree likes moist soil and does not thrive in hot, dry sites. Katsura gives off a spicy scent just before it loses its leaves in autumn.

Mongolian Oak

oak leaf image by Alison Bowden from

Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica) is a large deciduous tree reaching 30 to 50 feet in height. The oblong leaves are 4 to 8 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide with wavy edges. The leaves are dark green on top and pale green below. In fall, the leaves change to rosy-red beneath and bronze-colored above. The Mongolian oak tends to keep its leaves until early or middle winter. The Mongolian oak produce catkins where the male blossoms are yellow-green and the female blossoms are reddish. This oak tree develops 3/4-inch long acorns. The Mongolian oak tree grows a massive root system that spreads twice the height of the tree. The Mongolian oak tree is drought and shade tolerant.

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