Japanese Scholar Tree - Styphnolobium japonicum
Japanese scholar or pagoda tree is native, not to Japan, but to China and Korea. The species was formerly included in the genus Sophora but is now known as Styphnolobium japonicum. Confusions of name and origin aside, the scholar tree is an unusual and impressive tree for the modern urban landscape. It grows well here in Ithaca, although we’re at the northern limit of its range.
Its most remarkable feature is its late bloom time, from August into September every year, long after other trees have bloomed. Creamy white, pea-like flowers blanket the tree for 3 weeks, making the scholar tree an unexpected and eye-catching spectacle when in bloom.
The tree is called pagoda or scholar tree because it was often planted around Buddhist temples for its beautiful, fragrant flowers and welcome shade. Scholar trees were introduced to the West in 1753; there is a venerable scholar tree still growing in Kew Gardens in Britain, one of its five "Old Lions" planted in 1760.