Surprising Appearance of a Chinese Yellowhorn

Nobody could figure out what it is.

yellowhornA small tree growing across the street from the Jefferson Market in Ann Arbor. Bill Dale, a tree worker employed by the City of Ann Arbor, spotted it and brought a sample back to the office. He and co-worker Steve Goebel Jr were completely flummoxed, and asked for help from the community of “tree professionals” like me. Alternately-arranged pinnately-compound leaves, huge ‘tropical’ fruit with very large seeds. I had no idea. In the next couple of days, people suggested a wide range of possibilities until certified arborist Isaac Finn Dunigan of Grand Rapids came up with “Chinese yellowhorn.”

yellowhorn2 (1)In my world, finding a completely unrecognizable novel woody plant growing in a public space is so rare that it, like, never happens. But there it was cataloged in Michael Dirr’s fantastic Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Xanthoceras sorbifolium.

“Striking tree or more often large shrub, virtually unknown in commerce and gardens, zones 5-8, introduced via the Plant Select program at Colorado State University.” Roasted seeds reportedly taste a little like macadamia nuts. In the mostly tropical Sapindaceae family, which now includes maples and horse-chestnuts.

xanthocerasMethinks the big payoff is the flower. Never seen it, but I’ve got to have one. 

Image is ripped from the headlines World Wide Web. Thank you Kew Gardens.