The name tells it for this deciduous cold loving tree from northern Asia. Mature examples are dressed with a thick corky gray-brown bark with ridges and furrows. (To keep them warm, no doubt.) The Amur cork tree gets around 45 ft (14 m) tall, and has a large umbrella-like spread that often extends as much or even more than its height. The young branchlets are thick and orange-yellow in color. The leaves, 10-14 in (15-35 cm) long, are borne opposite each other and are pinnately compound with 5-13 pointy-elongate shiny dark green leaflets, each about 4 in (10 cm) long. The leaves, which smell a little like turpentine when bruised, turn a rich warm yellow before falling in autumn.
The cork trees are dioecious, with male and female flowers produced on separate trees. The flowers, in terminal clusters (panicles), are small, greenish and inconspicuous. If the female flowers get pollinated, they produce small black berrylike fruits that aren’t very ornamental either.
Location Phellodendron amurense is native to northern China, Manchuria, and Japan where it grows in moist forests and along streams.
Light: Grow cork trees in full sun. Moisture: The cork trees are adaptable to most well drained soils, and do not have demanding water requirements. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 -7 Propagation: Seeds can be sown outdoors in autumn, and germinate readily. Semi-ripe cuttings with heels can be started in summer.
Ripening fruits are found on female trees.
Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati is the home of this beautiful Amur cork tree which is also an Ohio state champion.
Amur cork tree is grown for its elegant wide spreading habit, graceful aromatic foliage, attractive corky bark and warm fall color. It has a broad spreading canopy and a short trunk, and looks good in parks and larger lawns. Often planted as a specimen tree in cool climates, the Amur cork tree makes a fine summertime shade tree. It provides a nice dappled shade in summer, and is attractive in winter with its picturesque, wide open canopy frame. Of note is the speed with which the Amur cork trees divests itself of foliage in the fall. One day it’s covered with withering yellow leaves, the next day the tree is just a framework.
There are ten species of Phellodendron, all from northern Asia, but the Amur cork tree is the most common one in cultivation.