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Mouth-watering: leaves from the burnt sugar tree

October 7, 2014

Just a brief post today, to show you some exquisite leaves which I gathered on a walk yesterday. We have a few trees of Japanese origin here in the castle grounds. One of these varieties is the Katsura or Cercidiphyllum japonicum. Since I never remember either its Japanese name or its Latin binomial, however, I simply call it the pudding tree; as at this time of year it smells deliciously of burnt sugar. This is a tree to make your mouth water.

Not only does it smell wonderful in the autumn, it looks delicious too. The heart-shaped leaves turn all shades of juicy pink, yellow, orange and red before they fall. At the moment, our two Katsuras have the full spectrum of their shades on display. One has a bright rainbow of colour; the other has a sweet selection of delicate pinks. (A tree covered in pink hearts: perhaps I should call it the Valentines’ tree?)

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A rainbow from one Katsura specimen (above), and a Valentine’s offering from the other (below).

On the tree itself, I think I preferred the delicacy of the pinks, glowing prettily in the mild sunshine. Having brought a selection home, however, I find it is the rainbow which really catches the attention. I can’t think of any other tree here which displays such a wide spectrum of autumn colour.

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If you were wondering, by the way, the page on which I photographed the leaves is taken from one of two books on Japan which were acquired by my husband’s great-grandmother over a hundred years ago. They are each a mixture of travel journal, visitors’ guide and artist’s sketchbook, reflecting the fascination of the West at that time for the barely-known culture and horticulture of the land of the rising sun. Now, of course, they are fascinating and beautiful period pieces in their own right – if a little the worse for wear.

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You might enjoy Abroad thoughts from home.

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. Denise Homer permalink
    October 7, 2014 1:06 am

    This post makes my Druid Soul happy. What beautiful trees! Love that you photographed them on books about Japan. I can almost hear the leaves discussing the text.

    • October 7, 2014 9:42 pm

      What a bewitching idea, Denise, ‘the leaves discussing the text’. And somehow I find it easy to believe that you have a Druid Soul. 🙂

  2. October 7, 2014 2:02 am

    Those leaves are breathtaking. I’m quite envious. The dominant (domineering) tree on my new garden is an old oak that throws acorns at my head while I’m hanging laundry out. If it had leaves this stunning, I might forgive it.

    • October 7, 2014 9:45 pm

      Ah now, I think you need to learn to love your mighty oak, who sounds very splendid. Or at least to come to an understanding with him: maybe ask him not to chuck acorns on wash days…!

  3. October 7, 2014 3:14 pm

    This tree must have been a marvel for everyone when it first appeared there. These beautiful colors and a wonderful smell. Fits in with the enchanted woods just fine.
    (Very old books are such a delight – real looks at the world through the eyes of that particular time)

    • October 7, 2014 9:50 pm

      Yes, they are still fairly unusual here and people are always delighted when they discover the scent. And they certainly look like trees which the fairies would love.

      I wonder if an appreciation of the leaves of trees and the leaves of books often go together? Seems they do here on Dancing Beastie! 😀

  4. cath permalink
    October 7, 2014 5:16 pm

    We visit an arboretum, about an hour drive away from where we live, in every season. As I love trees there’s something different to look forward to in each season. In autumn we always walk to the the Acers they have. Now I hope there are Katsuras too, never heard about them (or seen them) before but it is love at first sight.

    • October 7, 2014 9:53 pm

      I wouldn’t be at all surprised if an arboretum had a Katsura or two near its Acers, since both come from Japan and both are best known as autumnal specialists. The contrasting shapes of their rounded/ spiky leaves look very pleasing together too.

  5. Toffeeapple permalink
    October 7, 2014 5:38 pm

    What bliss to own such sensile trees. Thank you for the images, they are delightful.

    • October 7, 2014 9:56 pm

      They are certainly special. But then I appreciate ALL our trees – though I admit some are easier to love than others! (Monkey puzzles/ Araucaria for example: still trying to find their good points…)

  6. October 7, 2014 7:30 pm

    How very beautiful! I have heard of this tree, but I haven’t actually seen (or smelt!) one! I didn’t realise that they carried all the spectrum of colours at the same time. What a beautiful sight. And the books looks like real treasures as well.

  7. October 7, 2014 10:00 pm

    I don’t know if we are just lucky with this particular specimen: must admit I had never noticed this wonderful colour spectrum before, but maybe it’s just a question of lucky timing. And having got those books out just to provide a background, I’m now looking forward to sitting down and actually reading them this winter!

  8. Nib's End permalink
    October 8, 2014 4:04 pm

    “…struck by seeing a little man sitting on a box outside a silk-store on a bald plot of ground. For three consecutive days I…(pudding leaf tip)…this little man sitting on the same little box…(pudding leaf tip)…smiling and knocking out the ash from his…(lovely pudding leaf)…All day long he sat there never mo…(spoonful of caramelized pudding leaves)…”

    I am entranced by all the leaves (book and tree) you shared, but you left me in suspense. When you read the book this winter, can you tell us about the little man sitting on his little box outside the silk-store?

    From now on, I will always think of Katsura as the Pudding Tree.

    • October 28, 2014 11:36 pm

      Oh, I’m sorry to have taken so long to put you out of your suspense! I can tell you now that the little man was a renowned landscape gardener, and for three days he was sitting and thinking, and planning…a garden. A few days after that, he produced ‘an exquisite set of drawings’, showing miniature bridges, goldfish ponds, full grown trees – ‘all presenting an appearance of vastness, yet in reality occupying an area the size of a small room.’ The book was published in 1901 and is a fascinating memoir of a Western artist’s first impressions of Japan.

  9. October 11, 2014 3:50 pm

    What a spectrum of colour, they certainly are exquisite.

  10. October 24, 2014 10:12 pm

    Strangely, while researching what sort of tree to plant in our small garden, I read about Katsuras, and couldn’t believe that the online photos were true to life, they seemed ridiculously technicolour. But obviously it IS true! (We have chosen a good old rowan, in the end.)

    • October 28, 2014 11:18 pm

      The colours don’t seem garish at all on the tree, just beautiful. It’s only when I gathered them together that I realised there was almost a full rainbow of colour. Still, it’s hard to beat a rowan. I am very fond of rowans: they remind me of the west of Scotland (where I’m from) and of course they help to keep away the witches, always useful at this time of year!

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