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Koelreuteria paniculata - Laxm.                
Common Name Golden Rain Tree, Varnish Tree
Family Sapindaceae
USDA hardiness 5-8
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Found by sea-shores in Japan[58]. Grows on plains and in secondary forest on poor soils in China[200].
Range E. Asia - N. China. Naturalized in Japan and S. Europe.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Late summer, Mid summer. Form: Rounded, Vase.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of lolypop
Koelreuteria paniculata is a deciduous Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Koelreuteria paniculata Golden Rain Tree, Varnish Tree

Koelreuteria paniculata Golden Rain Tree, Varnish Tree
Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Leaves;  Seed.
Edible Uses:

Berries - roasted[2, 177]. Leaves and young shoots - cooked[2, 105, 177, 179].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


The flowers are ophthalmic[178, 218]. They are used in the treatment of conjunctivitis and epiphora[218].
Other Uses
Beads;  Dye.

A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers.[46, 61, 178]. A black dye is obtained from the leaves[178]. The seeds are used as beads in necklaces etc[46, 61, 178].
Cultivation details                                         
Landscape Uses:Pest tolerant, Specimen. Succeeds in any good loamy soil[1, 11] and in dry soils. Prefers a sunny sheltered position[1, 11]. A wind resistant plant, but it does not like salt-laden winds[200]. Tolerates atmospheric pollution[200]. This species is hardy to about -10°c when fully dormant[200], though the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. Grows best in areas with long hot summers, it is fast growing in such conditions[200]. A short-lived tree[11]. A good bee plant[108]. Plants are susceptible to coral spot fungus, especially if the wood is not properly ripened due to insufficient summer heat[11]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Special Features: Not North American native, Blooms are very showy.
The seed requires a period of cold stratification. It is probably best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[200]. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours in warm water. If it swells up then sow it in a cold frame. If it does not swell then soak it for a further 24 hours in hot water prior to sowing. This should cause the seed to swell but, should this fail, scarification (taking care not to damage the seed embryo) followed by a further 24 hours in warm water should do the trick[80]. Germination is usually good[78], though the seedlings are very variable[200]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Consider giving the plants some protection from the cold for their first winter outdoors[78]. Root cuttings, 4cm taken in December. Plant horizontally in individual pots in a warm greenhouse[78].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[58]Ohwi. G. Flora of Japan. (English translation)
The standard work. Brilliant, but not for the casual reader.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[80]McMillan-Browse. P. Hardy Woody Plants from Seed.
Does not deal with many species but it is very comprehensive on those that it does cover. Not for casual reading.
[105]Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World.
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
[108]International Bee Research Association. Garden Plants Valuable to Bees.
The title says it all.
[177]Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption.
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
[178]Stuart. Rev. G. A. Chinese Materia Medica.
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
[179]Reid. B. E. Famine Foods of the Chiu-Huang Pen-ts'ao.
A translation of an ancient Chinese book on edible wild foods. Fascinating.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[218]Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Miranda Hodgson Tue Jan 18 08:54:20 2005
There is a healthy semi-mature specimen of Koelreuteria paniculata, growing amongst other trees in a fairly sheltered spot, at Normanby Hall in North Lincolnshire (UK).

I've admired it many times and have been wondering what it was.

Elizabeth H.
Peter Atkinson Sun Apr 24 12:21:20 2005
There are 5 or 6 young specimens thriving in the park in front of the Auditorium in Madrid. They seem to have no problem coping with the hot extremely dry summers, when temperatures are well over 100 degrees. It's common name is Spanish is "Jabonero de China" which translates as "Chinese Soap Dish". I have a lot of seeds if anyone is interested.
Elizabeth H.
Derek Leppard Wed Sep 6 2006
There was a tree in our garden in Crockenhill Kent which produced flowers and seed in the hot summer of 1976. We brought a seedling with us when we moved to the South Coast and it has grown slowly in thin soil over chalk. 30 years on, it has flowered for the very first time this year, presumably in response to high temperatures, and we hope to propagate some seeds in due course.
Elizabeth H.
Derek Mayes Fri Nov 10 2006
There is a small, easy-to-find specimen in Victoria Embankment Gardens. The seed are easy to collect (October/early November). I have some 3 year-olds in pots in Orkney.
Elizabeth H.
pauline woods Sat Jan 6 2007
WE are interested in propogating as we have a excellent 6 year old tree in our garden. In South Australia when would we collect the seeds
Elizabeth H.
Julie Hughes Fri Sep 21 2007
I thought that this plant was poisonous therefore the comments relating to edibility may be misleading. I currently have two tree surgeons off work with severe skin irritaion caused by the sap when they removed a tree last week. I would value any further comments anyone has regarding this. JH 21/09/2007
Elizabeth H.
Celeste H Cole Mon Nov 19 2007
I have a Golden Rain Tree it's about 36 yrs old now. This year was the first time i Paid attention to the sap coming out of a small spot on it. I pulled it off and it is Hard as Glass and the color of Honey or Golden Rain.It's like a bubble Ball. So i'm keeping it to maybe make a piece of jewelery neclace with. Do you know anything about this Sap? Thank you.
Elizabeth H.
Dana Harris Fri Oct 10 2008
I have had a Koelreuteria paniculata planted for over 8 years now and it is growing well and is a large tree but has never bloomed. I am wondering if anyone has had the same issue. thanks
Elizabeth H.
Pat Lowe Mon Jan 26 2009
I had a garden with a Koelreuteria paniculata from 1978 to 2001, in Worthing about 2 miles fromthe coast. It flowered every four or so years perhaps. It lived in the shade of a mature walnut tree, which perhaps gave it some protction from frost. It died suddenly in 2000. I don't know how old it was, or how long they can live. In the 23 years I knew it it hardly increased in height at all. It was always interesting to look at with colour changes in leaves and rachemes. In flower on a sunny day it was absolutely beautiful, deserving its name Golden Rain Tree or Pride of India. On two occasions at least it had seedlings growing around the roots, some of which I gave to friends. One now grows in a back garden in Thornton Heath, and one in my current back garden in Worthing. There may be some in a garden in Henfield too, where friends planted several in about 1993.
Elizabeth H.
D Paxton Thu Apr 23 2009
Our Koel. Paniculata needs pruning. The shape at the base is in a "tripodal" form which worried the Arborist somewhat.He thought one whole part of it could come down somewhat like the fig tree. Can you enlighten us on the probability f this ? Our tree is about 10 metres high
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