Beijing, 1 July 2014

For reasons which are too long to explain, a few days ago my wife and I moved out of our apartment and into another one not too far away. Suffice to say that renters have little if any protection in China: “you don’t agree to my doubling the rent? Well, the door is over there. Oh, and by the way, I’ll keep the deposit.”

In any event, this forced relocation has meant that I’ve had to walk a new route to and from the office, which takes me under a new set of trees. Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say, which in this case is my discovery of the goldenrain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, under a row of which I now walk every day. This picture shows nicely the origins of the name. At this time of the year, the tree is covered with bunches of small yellow flowers, which drizzle down on the ground around the tree.

solitary goldenrain tree

In my row of goldenrain trees, planted as they are close to each other – to give shade, which is devoutly to be thanked for at this time of year – I don’t get such an uncluttered view of the trees and their flowers. This is about the best I’ve managed to see.

golden rain tree 009

I also haven’t really been able to see the golden raindrops scattered around on the ground since the street sweepers are very efficient in this part of town. This is all I’ve seen, little piles ready to be picked up

golden rain on ground

although this car parked under some of the trees shows what the pavement must look like early in the morning.

golden rain on car

Actually, it wasn’t the flowers which attracted my attention. It was the seed pods (the tree seems to move from flower to seed astonishingly quickly). Some of them had fallen onto the pavement

seed pods on ground 006

and it was their light, translucent green which drew my eye. I carefully picked up a few – they are very delicate – and took them home. My wife took this in her stride; she is used by now to my bringing home botanical strays. I laid the pods out on our table cloth and took this picture

pods on table - 1 july 001

I’m not sure what to call this green. The clever thingy which in the Word software allows me to have an infinite number of colours for my fonts tells me that in the colour model RGB (whatever that is) it’s about 200 Red, 255 green, and 90 blue. But that’s far too boringly scientific. I would like a name for this green! A search of colour charts for paints, dyes and the like suggests that it could be Lime Green. Or there’s a green called Inchworm, after an inch-long worm of that colour. Or could it be Chartreuse? But that’s too yellow I think. Or maybe Spring Bud; it certainly has something of that tender green which we associate with Spring.

And I really like their shape. A number of websites call it bladder-like. Really, some people have no imagination! Others note a resemblance to Chinese lanterns, which is a much better comparison

green chinese lantern

although I think Chinese lantern makers could profit aesthetically from trying to copy the somewhat rounded pyramidal shape of these seed pods.

Having had my attention drawn to the pods, I quickly noticed how they clustered thickly about the crown of the trees, giving a frosting of light green on the dark green of the leaves, a delightful effect.

pods on tree - 1 july 002

pods on the tree

I understand that the pods eventually turn brown. It will be interesting to see how this changes the visual pleasure which I currently get from the tree on my daily walk to and from the office (intermittently cursing at my previous landlord).

POSTSCRIPT 1, 10 July 2014

Once you see one, you begin to see them everywhere …

I’m in Budapest at the moment, for reasons which are also too long to explain. Yesterday evening, I was walking across a little park when at its exit I stumbled across a goldenrain tree sheltering locals having a quiet evening drink and chat.

goldenrain trees Budapest 003

Here, it’s an immigrant in a foreign land. The goldenrain tree is native to China and Korea.

POSTSCRIPT 2, 17 August 2014

Well, the pods have turned brown. This is what the trees look like now.

golden rain tree with mature pods 002

I don’t know, I think I prefer the pods in their lime green phase.


Solitary goldenrain tree: [in
Green Chinese lanterns: [in
other pictures: mine