- Scientific Name
- Cercidiphyllum japonicum
The Arnold Arboretum’s oldest katsura arrived as seed in 1878. The story of how it came here is the opening of long series of exchanges between the Arboretum and researchers in Japan.
Initially designed by noted landscape architect Beatrix Farrand [pdf] and installed in 1946, this collection of Rhododendron and other members of the heath family (Ericaceae) featured masses of shrubs grown mainly for their ornamental merit. Over time, however, some plants thrived while others perished due to a high water table, prompting a curatorial review and renovation in 2007. The collection continues to feature striking ornamentals, but also offers a destination for accessions of wild provenance—particularly plants that prefer “wet feet” like Rhododendron viscosum and R. atlanticum, the swamp and coastal azaleas, respectively.
Each bed within Azalea Border tends to have a prominent backbone species or genus (e.g., Rhododendron arborescens, Enkianthus), with ancillary species and cultivars mixed in. The midsized serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.) are understory species grown in many of the beds; they serve as a thread tying the beds together, particularly when they are all in bloom. The overstory comprises mostly maples, including the Arboretum’s tallest deciduous tree, a silver maple (Acer saccharinum) standing at a height of 104 feet. Notable specimens of katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) and cork trees (Phellodendron amurense) can also be found here.
This quarter-mile tour through the Explorers Garden features stories from the Arboretum’s century and a half of collecting plants around the world. If you’re at the Arboretum, click here to take a version of this tour with Expeditions, our mobile web app.