Nederlandse Vereniging Botanische Tuinen

A late bloomer

The Japanese pagoda tree is actually a deciduous tree from China and Korea. It was introduced to Japan very early on where it was planted in temples and cemeteries. The tree grows up to 25 m in height and can live for hundreds of years. It is an excellent choice for avenues and parks.

The Japanese pagoda tree flowers relatively late, from July to September, with white flowers that have a slightly sweet fragrance and attract many bees, hence its name Dutch name - the ‘honey tree’. After flowering pods form each of which is several times constricted (like a string of short sausages). These give rise to the alternative name for the pagoda tree, the ‘string tree’. A characteristic feature of this tree is that although it is a legume, it has no nodules with nitrogen fixing bacteria on its roots and therefore cannot fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.

In the Netherlands, an impressive pagoda tree can be found in Houthem (Limburg) with a girth of more than 4 m and a height of more than 20m.

Styphnolobium japonicum - Utrecht Botanic Gardens - Foto: Akkie Joosse
Styphnolobium japonicum - Utrecht Botanic Gardens - Foto: Akkie Joosse


  • Genus:
  • Styphnolobium
  • Omschrijving:
  • tree, 15-25 m.
  • Verspreiding:
  • China
  • Leefgebied:
  • Forest on rocky mountain slopes, thickets; in western China on open sites between 300 and 1000 m in altitude
  • Winterhardheid:
  • -4 - 5 F (Hardy - very cold winter)
  • Bloemkleur:
  • whitecreme 
  • Notities bloemen:
  • The creamy white flowers are about 1 cm long.
  • Vruchtperiode:
  • December - December


  • Crown jewel in the Utrecht Botanic Gardens.
  • The leaves and flowers are edible but the pods are toxic.
  • Pods are toxic.
  • Styphnolobium japonicum is used in traditional medicine in Asia - the flower buds are used for their regenerative and astringent properties. An infusion of the leaves and fruits have a strong laxative effect, but was nevertheless used in China to adulterate opium.
  • The Japanese pagoda tree usually only commences flowering once the tree has reached 30–40 years.
  • The durable timber is used for furniture and construction.
  • Yellow and grey dyes extracted from the pods were used in the silk and batik industries.
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