Sophora japonica - L.
Common Name Japanese Pagoda Tree, Scholar Tree
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 4-7
Known Hazards The plant contains cytosine, which resembles nicotine and is similarly toxic[238].
Habitats Open country between 300 and 1000 metres in W. China[109].
Range E. Asia - N. China, Japan, Korea.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun

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

Sophora japonica Japanese Pagoda Tree, Scholar Tree
Sophora japonica Japanese Pagoda Tree, Scholar Tree
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of lolypop
Sophora japonica is a deciduous Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in September, and the seeds ripen in November. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Styphnolobium japonicum

Woodland Garden Canopy;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves.
Edible Uses: Rutin;  Tea.

Young leaves and flowers - cooked[177, 183]. The leaves need to be cooked in three lots of water in order to remove the bitterness[179]. This will also remove most of the vitamins and minerals[K]. The leaves are a rich source of rutin, they contain much more than the usual commercial source, buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)[174]. The ovaries, before the flowers open, contain up to 40% rutin[218]. A tea can be made from the young leaves and flowers[183]. An edible starch is obtained from the seed[183].
Medicinal Uses

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Abortifacient;  Antibacterial;  Anticholesterolemic;  Antidiarrhoeal;  Antiinflammatory;  Antispasmodic;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  
Emollient;  Febrifuge;  Hypotensive;  Purgative;  Skin;  Styptic;  Tonic.

This species is commonly used in Chinese medicine and is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs[218]. It came second in a study of 250 potential antifertility agents[218]. Diuretic, emollient, febrifuge, tonic[11, 147, 174, 178]. The flowers and flower buds are antibacterial, anticholesterolemic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, haemostatic and hypotensive[11, 147, 174, 176, 178, 218, 238, 279]. The ovaries, especially just before the plant flowers, are a rich source of rutin and this is a valuable hypotensive agent[218]. The buds, flowers and pods are concocted and used in the treatment of a variety of ailments[218] including internal haemorrhages, poor peripheral circulation, internal worms etc[238]. This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women[238]. The seedpods are abortifacient[218]. The seed is emetic and haemostatic[218]. It is used in the treatment of haemorrhoids, haematuria, uterine bleeding, constipation, stuffy sensation in the chest, dizziness, red eyes, headache and hypertension[176].It should be used with caution since it is toxic[218]. The leaves are laxative[218]. They are used in the treatment of epilepsy and convulsions[218]. A decoction of the stems is used in the treatment of piles, sore eyes and skin problems[218].


Other Uses
Dye;  Wood.

A yellow dye is obtained from the seedpods and the flowers[46, 61, 109, 178]. It is green when mixed with indigo[151]. Wood - tough, light, strong, of superior quality. Used in carpentry[109, 174].
Cultivation details
Landscape Uses:Firewood, Pest tolerant, Specimen, Street tree. Succeeds in a well-drained moderately fertile soil in full sun[200]. Tolerates poor soils, atmospheric pollution, heat and, once established, drought[200]. Hardy to about -25° when mature, but it can be damaged by severe frosts when it is young[200]. A very ornamental[1] and fast growing tree[200], it grows best in hot summers[188]. It grows best in the warmer areas of the country where the wood will be more readily ripened and better able to withstand winter cold[219]. Trees take 30 years to come into flower from seed.[200], but they do not often ripen their seed in Britain[11]. Cultivated in China for the rutin contained in its leaves and ovaries[218]. Plants should be container-grown and planted out whilst young, older plants do not transplant well[219]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. Special Features: Not North American native, Attractive flowers or blooms.
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse[200]. Pre-soak stored seed for 12 hours in hot (not boiling) water and sow in late winter in a greenhouse[78]. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle into individual pots in the greenhouse, and grow them on for 2 years under protected conditions. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer of their third year. Cuttings of young shoots with a heel, July/August in a frame[11]. Air-layering[200].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Acacia sophoraeCoastal Wattle, Acacia20
Sophora davidiiSophora10
Sophora flavescensKu Shen, Shrubby sophora03
Sophora mollis 10
Sophora moorcroftiana 01
Sophora secundifloraMescal Bean, Texas Mountain Laurel01
Sophora sericeaSilky Sophora30
Sophora tetrapteraKowhai00
Sophora tonkinensis 02


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Readers comment
karen legg   Sun Aug 20 2006
Planted this tree 21 yrs ago. It bloomed first time two years ago. It is in entry space and the dropping flower blooms and then the pods have created an ongoing nightmare regarding clean-up. Would love to know anything about how to prevent flowering as it is a beautiful shade tree. anything about how to prevent flowering as it is a beautiful shade tree.
Sussan Soong   Thu Nov 16 2006
Am thinking of transplanting a 5-6 year old Sophora Japonica from a friends garden. I have two questions: A. Will a plant this age transplant succesfully (It's aprox.3m)? B. Is there a way to limit it's height to about 8m?
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future.   Mon Nov 20 2006
I'm afraid that trees which have been growing in the open ground for more than a year are unlikely to transplant well. In addition, the tree is naturally fast-growing and can reach a height of 20 metres, so is unlikely to want to be restricted to 8 metres without a lot of trimming each year. The main exception to this is if you are growing the tree in an area with cool summers where it will grow more slowly and will be easier to keep to a smaller size.
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Subject : Sophora japonica  

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