Family: Sapindaceae (Soapberry)
Photo courtesy Ian Vickery, Brewton, Alabama
Golden Raintree Leaf Golden Raintree Seed
Golden Raintree is a medium sized tree, 25 to 30 feet in height with a crown spread.of equal size. The growth rate is approximately 1 and 1/2 feet per year. The branches are spreading and drooping. Distribution in the Escambia region is rare. Its preferred habitat is old fields, home sites, and open wooded areas.
The leaves are alternate, pinnate or bipinnate compound. Dark green in color, turning yellow in autumn. The leaflets are 2 to 3 inches long, long pointed, occasional teeth and the sides are less than equal (slightly sickle-shaped). The mid-vein is prominent, side veins are obscured.
The flowers are yellow and in panicles 12 inch long and about as wide. Flowers occur in late June and early July. Each flower evolves to a papery three-valve capsule that turns from green to yellowish and then brown.
The fruit is berry-like persisting on the tree into autumn. Each seed is 2 or 3 per valve, black and shiny at maturity - about the size of an English pea. The capsules are often called Japanese lanterns.
The Golden Raintree is not generally known as a forest
tree, but was used extensively as a garden ornamental. However,
it is known to persist in a wilderness environment for several
years where abandoned by the homestead.
From an article by Josephine Mirabella Elliott, editor, Partnership for Posterity: The Correspondence of William Maclure and Marie Duclos Fretageot, 1820-1833, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, 1994.
William Maclure wanted to raise a kind of tree known as the "pride of China," also known today as "golden rain tree." In 1829, after Maclure had moved from New Harmony to Mexico, he acquired seeds but was unable to get them to germinate. In hopes that they would do better in New Harmony, seeds were sent to Thomas Say. He was successful, and today there are many golden rain trees in New Harmony and the surrounding region.
Local tradition holds that the New Harmony naturalists
introduced the golden raintree to America, but in fact, credit
for this introduction belongs to Thomas Jefferson, dating from