Styphnolobium japonicum (pagoda tree)
Pagoda tree at Kew Gardens
Styphnolobium japonicum (L.) Schott
Widely cultivated and therefore unlikely to be threatened on a global scale.
In China, thickets and upland forest on rocky mountain slopes.
The leaves and flowers are edible but the pods are toxic.
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'.
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.
Sophora japonica L.