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Golden rain tree

Golden rain tree in full flower.

Golden rain tree is known for its sprays of yellow flowers in summer.  The flowers are followed by fruit that are air-filled capsules resembling Japanese lanterns.  These fruit change from green to yellow to a fleshy, almost pink color.  Because it readily self-sows, it has become a problem in some locations.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Koelreuteria paniculata

All common names:

Golden rain tree, panicled goledn rain tree, varnish tree, pride of India

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • medium tree (25-40 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • midsummer,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Yellow

Shape or Form:

  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate,
  • Fast

More Information:

Size and Form

30-40 feet high and wide, but may not reach its full potential in zone 5; rounded form.

Tree & Plant Care

This tree tolerates a wide range of conditions including drought and alkaline soils.
In zone 5, the tree may struggle with hard winter conditions.
Because the tree readily self-sows, weed seedlings can be a problem.

Disease, pests, and problems

Canker diseases and leaf spots are possible.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China, Japan and Korea; often found in dry, rocky sites.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is light gray in color and shallowly ridge and furrowed.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Leaves are alternate and may be pinnately compound or even bipinnately compound.  Leaflets are irregularly dissected and often deeply lobed near the base.
Fall color is yellow, but not consistent from year to year.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Numerous small, bright yellow flowers on 12 inch tall upright clusters.
Flowering occurs in mid-summer.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruits air-filled capsules resembling Japanese lanterns.  These fruit change from green to yellow to a fleshy, almost pink color.
They contain hard black seeds.

Cultivars and their differences

September golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata 'September'):   This cultivar flowers later than the species (late August into early September).

Summerburst® golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata 'JFS-Sunleaf'):  A cultivar that is more tolerant of summer heat.  Foliage is glossier and darker green than that of the species.



Location of Koelreuteria paniculata (Golden rain tree) at the Arboretum