The Katsura Tree

As the title of this blog might suggest, I have a particular fondness for the Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). I have three in the garden, all youngsters. One is getting on for 2 or 3 metres tall, has been in for a few years (planted Nov 2007), and is looking good.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum
Healthy tree

Around the corner in the front garden there are a couple of tiny trees that I snapped up for a fiver each from Dawyck a couple of years ago. They are about 3 or 4 metres apart and have been absolutely fine since the day they were put in. I occasionally mulch with grass clippings or clear encroaching roses or beech from them, but all, in all, they’ve seemed happy.

But something has happened recently. The one on the right (click for a bigger picture) looks pretty healthy. Not a big tree but happy enough.


And then I walk about 3 metres along the flower bed to the next one. And it doesn’t look well at all.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum
Not a healthy tree

The mush you can see around the base is old grass clippings (no fertiliser, or weed and feed), and it is kept away from the base of the sapling. Same for the healthy one.

A closer look at the leaves shows them brown and mostly dead.

So, what is wrong with this picture? Why is one alive and apparently healthy, and one is dead, or nearly so? They are only a few metres apart and have no visible differences in light, soil or moisture.

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6 thoughts on “The Katsura Tree”

  1. Hi……..My katsura trees have black spots on the main trunk. It doesn’t seem to be affecting the trees but it really doesn’t look very good or healthy. I am wondering why this is happening and how to avoid it. Thank you……..Nadia

  2. Dougie – Weird … we are having the same issues with our Katsuras here in WA state. Currently four trees in distress (one of which is dead). Two of the distressed trees and offshooting new branches at the base of the trunk. Have you found out anything? BTW I have three other Katsuras NOT showing any signs of stress. Thanks – Dave

    P.S. If you want to see pictures, let me know and I can send them along.

  3. I have grown Katsura from bought seed this year and I have found that they do not like strong sunlight in their first year and some of the plants have developed holes in the leaves, I think due to the light. I put the shoots (about 6 inches tall) under apple trees to provide dappled shade and they now seem fine. They do not like to dry out and sit in water (one inch for a four inch pot) and in a compost containing leaf mold to mimic forest life. The seeds are prolific and I have thirty seedings after potting on only the larger plants. Some seeding just collapsed after repotting. I must have rejected fifty smaller ones as I am running out of space. I know of two mature Katsura in my area (South Devon UK). One is dying that was ok two years ago. I stands in full western light. The other’s in open ground in full sun and is ok maybe twenty feet tall. I take a cutting from that and have a beautiful two foot tree.

    1. Thanks Frank, I had no idea you could take cuttings from a Katsura, or indeed, grow it from seed. I’m not sure why this hasn’t occurred to me before. I’ve planted a few blackthorn recently and when things get cooler I’m going to plant a blackthorn hedge. I’m quite interested in trying to grow some wych elm but I noticed you can’t buy it easily, but I understand that it’s possible to grow Wych Elm direct from seed. I’m thinking of giving that a go next year.

    2. I bought online for £6.99 and the contents looked like a lot of chaff but I went ahead and damp layered the contents for three days. I got maybe 80% to grow but they are delicate and many died after being repotted into seeding compost probably from root damage. I kept them in a shady spot in the greenhouse and most flourished. I’ve yet to get a sugary leaf from them but maybe later in to the year.

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