Japanese scholar tree is an interesting member of the pea family. In summer, the tree produces clusters of creamy white flowers that have a mild fragrance. The "pea pods" that follow the flowers are unusual in that they are constricted between each seed, giving the fruit the appearance of a string of beads. Despite its name, this tree is really native to China. Also known as Styphnolobium japonicum.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All Common Names:
- Residential and parks,
- City parkway,
- Wide median,
- Restricted sites
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Shade tree,
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Dry sites,
- Alkaline soil,
- Road salt
- Moderately Tolerant
- Moderately Tolerant
- May be difficult to find in nurseries
- Summer blossoms,
- Fragrant flowers,
- Showy flowers
Season of Interest:
- Mid summer,
- Late summer,
- Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Insect pollinators
Tree & Plant Care
This species can be slow to come into flower and young trees may not flower until ten years old. Once established this tree is tolerant of urban conditions (heat, drought and pollution).
Disease, pests, and problems
Cankers, twig blight and potato leafhoppers are of concern.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to China and Korea.
Bark color and texture
Light gray bark with rough-textured interlacing ridges.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Leaves are compound and alternate, The leaf is 6 to 10 inches long with 9 to 13 leaflets. Medium green in summer changing to yellow green in fall.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Creamy white flowers in large clusters produced in late summer. Flowers have a light fragrance.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fruit are legumes (pods) that are often constricted between the seeds inside, giving the fruit the appearance of a string of beads.
Cultivars and their differences
Regent® Japanese pagoda tree (Styphnolobium japonicum 'Regent'): Faster growing than the species. Rounded habit (50 feet high by 45 feet wide). Flowers well at an early age.