Wonderful Tree With Small Paper Lanterns - Knowledgebase Question

Mt. Washington, KY
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Question by Wthomp3543
November 14, 1999
A local hospital has 6 of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen. They are about the size of adult dogwoods, and have many small pods that remind me of paper lanterns. Inside the pods, which are more like leaves shaped into the lantern, are 3 small berry like seeds. Can you tell me what type of tree this is, and how to start the seeds that are in the pod?

Answer from NGA
November 14, 1999
I believe you are describing Koelreuteria paniculata, Panicled Goldenrain Tree or Varnish Tree. According to Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, this tree is easy to start from seed. He suggests soaking the cleaned seed in concentrated sulfuric acid for 60 minutes to counter the impermeable seed coat and then placing it in moist stratification at 41 degrees for three months. At home, I think I would gently rub the seeds with a bit of sand paper, then place them in barely moist medium such as milled sphagnum peat moss or vermiculite and wrap that in a plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator for about three months. Then plant as you would any other seeds.

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