Tetracentron sinense
Common Name: spur leaf 
Type: Tree
Family: Trochodendraceae
Native Range: Central and eastern Asia
Zone: 6 to 7
Height: 30.00 to 40.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 30.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Yellowish-green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Insignificant


Grow in medium moisture, well-drained loams in full sun to light shade. Best in light shade. Winter hardy to USDA Zones 6-7. Somewhat intolerant of the hot and humid summers of the deep South (Zones 8-9) where it is not recommended for planting. May do best in the climate of the Pacific Northwest.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Tetracentron sinense, commonly called tetracentron (no generally accepted common name), is a medium-sized deciduous tree with a broad-rounded crown that features gracefully arching branches clad with alternate, acuminate (pointed), heart-shaped (rarely truncate-rounded) leaves (to 3-5” long) with rugose surfaces, 5-7 palmate veins and serrated margins. Leaves emerge with red tints in spring, mature to dark green in summer and turn attractive red in fall. Tiny, bisexual, stalkless, yellowish-green, wind-pollinated flowers in slender pendulous spikes (catkins to 4-6” long) bloom in early summer (June-July). Flowers are apetalous, with four sepals, four stamens and four carpels. Fruits are brown 4-celled, deeply lobed, dehiscent follicles (about 3/4” long), with each follicle containing 4-6 seeds.

This tree typically grows to 30-40’ tall in cultivation, but will mature to 60-90” tall in the wild. It is native to streams margins, forest margins, moist slopes and bottomlands in central to southwestern China, northern Vietnam, northern Myanmar (Burma), eastern Nepal, Bhutan and northeastern India. It is similar in appearance to Cercidiphylum (katsura tree) but has alternate leaves. It was once included in the magnolia family. It was first introduced to the West in 1901 by E. H. (“Chinese”) Wilson. It is now rare in its native habitat in part because of a poor ability to regenerate. Wood of this tree lacks water-conducting vessels, but instead has tracheids which serve in the conduction of water and dissolved minerals. Currently listed on Appendix III of CITES (Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species).

Genus name comes from the Greek words tetra meaning four and kentron meaning spur in reference to four projections on the fruit.

Specific epithet means from China.


No serious insect or disease problems.


This rare species is difficult to obtain in commerce. It is a tree with excellent form and foliage. May be propagated by cuttings or seed.