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Why I’m Happy When My Katsura Turns Brown

October 07, 2009

Fragrant trees offer an extra bit of wonderful when they bloom, but did you know some perfume the air each autumn during leaf fall?

This morning, looking out the kitchen window at a stunning pink sunrise, my eye was torn between the beauty of said sunrise and the flashing brilliance of my sunshine-yellow Katsura. It reminded me to share this post again, singing the praises of this beautiful and surprisingly fragrant tree, the Katsura.

If you’re interested in adding a Katsura to your garden, keep in mind that they do need supplemental water in the summer, particularly in their early years. They’ll stand up to hot, full sun locations. But, also remember, this is not a small tree. They get big! Often I see them planted in parking strips, too close together, or under power lines. Unfortunately, what may appear to be a small, delicate tree will evolve into a giant in no time. Give these beauties room to stretch out and really show their stuff. (Note: there are cultivars that form wide, but weeping canopies. These won’t get as tall as the species, but they aren’t tiny either.)

The following is from an original post dated October 16, 2008:

Fragrant tree: Katsura showing Yellow Fall Color

Fragrant Tree: Katsura Yellowing in October

Those of you familiar with the Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) already know the answer, but until you know this tree’s autumn secret you’re bound to love it anyway. Katsura trees have ruffled heart shape leaves, diverse form, and furrowed grey bark. Their fall color may range from clear yellow to deeper tones of yellow and orange. If you’re really lucky it may even have a strawberry pink tone. But this tree’s most fantastic aspect happens when the leaves finally detatch from the stem and fall to the ground.  Sure, you’re then looking at bare stems for winter and brown piles of leaves to rake up. But did you notice the fragrance of burnt sugar or cotton candy wafting in the air?

The Katsura tree’s final farewell to summer comes in doses of country fair or candy factory fragrance. The brown leaves on the ground, mingling with moist fall soil, fills the air with a spectacular, surprising, sugary treat that I have yet to find in another tree. As much as I adore the astringent scent of rosemary, the dusty aroma of sage and the peanut-buttery goodness of a glorybower, there’s nothing that makes my nose happier than the brown, crunchy leaves from my Katsura.

8 Comments

  1. Karen says:

    Huh, someone else told me about this (described it as a strawberry scent) but I didn’t believe it! Go figure. Cool!

  2. Christina Salwitz says:

    Love that scent! You definitely know when you’re near a Katsura, that’s for sure! Thanks for the Post.

  3. […] I endeavored to get the various water vessels in the garden ready for the bees. When I pruned my Katsura tree, I saved some twigs and wove them together over a ceramic birdbath. The colorful hand blown […]

  4. […] in fall occurs when the Katsura trees begin to change color and drop their leaves. As I’ve shared in autumns past, their burnt sugar aroma is nearly unparalleled, and until now I considered it the sweetest reward […]

  5. […] sunlight. But, as I wandered around the garden to inhale the last sugary scent of our defoliated Katsura, to bumble along with the bees gathering pollen in the precious hours of sunlight, I found myself […]

  6. […] bees were buzzing about. A touch of fragrant, burnt-sugar-scented yellow had begun to show on the Katsura. And, of course, the weeds had continued to thrive. It seemed they’d sprouted and spread in […]

  7. […] I endeavored to get the various water vessels in the garden ready for the bees. When I pruned my Katsura tree, I saved some twigs and wove them together over a ceramic birdbath. The colorful hand blown […]

  8. […] bees were buzzing about. A touch of fragrant, burnt-sugar-scented yellow had begun to show on the Katsura. And, of course, the weeds had continued to thrive. It seemed they’d sprouted and spread in […]

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