Content Detail

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. Previously known as Sophora japonicum.

  • Family (English) Pea
  • Family (botanic) Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Restricted sites, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 50-75 feet
  • Mature width 50-75 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Road salt
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, White
  • Shape or form Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

Japanese scholar tree is actually native to China and Korea.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is light gray 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. Color is medium green in summer changing to yellow-green in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Creamy white flowers in large clusters are 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.

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 such as heat, drought, and pollution.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Canker diseases, twig blight, and potato leafhoppers are of concern.

Millstone™ Japanese pagoda tree (Styphnolobium japonicum ‘Halka’):

This smaller cultivar is 45 feet high by 35 feet wide with a rounded to broad oval, uniform habit and yellow fall color.

Regent® Japanese pagoda tree (Styphnolobium japonicum ‘Regent’): 

Faster growing than the species with a rounded habit, this cultivar reaches 50 feet high by 45 feet wide at maturity. Flowers well at an early age.


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