I'm gonna say it now... it's not always about the flowers. Culturally, we've been taught to worship the flower but sometimes plants do cool things that take our attention away from those florific hoggers-of-the-spotlight. Sometimes they ornament themselves in eye-catching accoutrement. Such is the case of the opulent origami seed capsules of Koelreuteria bipinnata also known as the Chinese Flame Tree.
Koelreuteria bippinata is a deciduous tree coming to us from the Yunnan Province of Southwestern China. It outfits itself with fresh green, subtly sawtooth margined, bipinnate foliage. Its tree bark is stippled with spots of sandalwood color and creviced with splits reminiscent of a pound cake fresh out of the oven.
In late summer, a flurry of teeny tiny flowers cluster and bloom. If you look closely, some flowers display the most amazing anthers you'll ever see with pollen so mysteriously and inconceivably blue. Some flowers also display a spirited stain of red on their petals. As the flowers fade, 2" large pillowy seed capsules form that remind me of piñatas made from richly dyed crepe paper.
Koelreuteria bipinnata's latern-like seed capsules come in shades of brilliant fuchsia, salmon, and rosy red. Their display blankets the tree's canopy, which can then be seen from miles away. These trees tend to grow up to 30 feet tall and 25 wide at maturity. They set deep, noninvasive roots and also make a beautiful street tree. Foliage fall color is rich and golden. They like full sun to part shade, well-draining soil, regular water, and are hardy down to around 10 degrees fahrenheit/-12 degrees celsius. Wanna keep the hood classy...say it with Koelreuteria bipinnata.