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Styphnolobium japonicum (pagoda tree)

The pagoda tree was introduced to Britain in 1753 and Kew's own specimen is believed to date back to 1760.
Pagoda tree at Kew Gardens

Pagoda tree at Kew Gardens

Species information

Scientific name: 

Styphnolobium japonicum (L.) Schott

Common name: 

pagoda tree

Conservation status: 

Widely cultivated and therefore unlikely to be threatened on a global scale.

Habitat: 

In China, thickets and upland forest on rocky mountain slopes.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, timber.

Known hazards: 

The leaves and flowers are edible but the pods are toxic.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Rosanae
Order: 
Fabales
Family: 
Leguminosae/Fabaceae - Papilionoideae
Genus: Styphnolobium

About this species

Although its Latin name, Styphnolobium japonicum, implies that the pagoda tree is a Japanese plant, it is in fact native to China. The species was first described under the name Sophora japonica, based on cultivated material from Japan, and thus the choice of species name. It was introduced to Britain in 1753 by the famous nurseryman James Gordon, and it is believed that one old veteran specimen tree at Kew is one of an original five planted in the Gardens in 1760. They are thought to have been the first in the country. Collectively these original trees are known as Kew's 'Old Lions'.

Medicinal Uses

Styphnolobium japonicum is used in traditional medicine in Asia, where the flower buds are used for their haemostatic and astringent properties. Despite their strong purgative properties, extracts of the leaves and fruits were once used in China to adulterate opium.

Synonym: 

Sophora japonica L.

Genus: 
Styphnolobium

main info

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