Japanese katsura trees have delicate leaves which resemble tiny green hearts. Though slow growing, a 20 year old tree can reach heights of up to 40 feet. Its foliage offers an array of color throughout the year. In spring, the leaves emerge reddish-purple, changing to a cool green in the summer. By fall their bright yellow or orange. These fall leaves give off a distinctive aroma that many have described as resembling cotton candy, cinnamon, or apple fragrance.
Their scientific name Cercidiphyllum refers to their leaves resembling those of Redbud trees whose botanical name is Cercis. Native to Japan and China, they are one of the largest hardwoods in Asia. Katsuras were introduced into the United States by Thomas Hogg Jr. around 1865. Hogg served under President Lincoln as a counsel to the Japanese government in establishing a customs office. He was the son of a Scottish immigrant who ran a tree nursery in New York City. After the death of his father, Hogg inherited the business and began bringing several species of Japanese plants to America, including the katsura.