Katsura or Tree caramel, Cercidiphyllum japonicum
tree or unique shrub of its family (Cercidiphyllacées), sometimes assimilated with that of Hamamelidaceae (Liquidambar, Parrotia).
Etymology: from Greek kerkis, name of the Judas tree. "Tree caramel" alluded to the caramel smell which emanates from its leaves in autumn.
Origin: China, Japan.
Habitat: Cercidiphyllum prefers an acid soil for autumn colours.
Hardiness: it fears spring frosts.
Height:shrub in Europe, growing in clump or on an unique trunk. It attains 30 m in its original area.
Dark brown bark shedding in rags on elderly plants.
Deciduous foliage. Opposite leaves, rounded (they distinguish themselves from those of the Judas tree because they are opposed), slightly crenellated (those of the Judas tree have a smooth margin). They appear coloured with red, in May, turn green in summer and red again in autumn. This time, their shade change is again progressive: they turn pink, with edge of reddish-brown before tanning entirely. By crumpling them, a caramel smell frees.
Tiny (barely visible) flowers, in March-April, on separated feet (male feet and female feet) : it is a species dioecious. The female flowers give pods 5 cm long in summer.
Use : ornamental tree. Its clear wood is suitable for lacquer and is used in Japan for this purpose. The Americans used the leaves to flavor caramel candies until when they realized they were carcinogenic.