The Amur cork tree (Phellodendron amurense)is broadly spreading tree with massive limbs. It has a pinnate compound leaf (3-11 leaflets in a cluster). It has a deeply furrowed, prominently-ridged dark bark. Yellow male and female flowers appear on separate trees in clusters. The fruit is a pea-sizedberry which also appears in clusters. These have a strong aromatic odor and contain five or six dark seeds. The berriesstay on the trees most of the winter, providing food for starlings, robins, and other birds. This species is originally from northeast Asia, and gets its name from the great Amur River that forms the boundary between Siberia and China. Considered an invasive species in N. America as it is locally naturalized and seeds spread by bird to roadsides and woodlands. Introduced to cultivation in 1856. Extract of the bark is used in Chinese medicine and extracts of the wood and roots have been used to dye wool and leather. Genus name comes from the Greek word phellos, meaning “cork” and dendron meaning “tree”. While the name refers to the Cork Tree, Quercus suber, the latter comes from a completely different family (Fagaceae).
Common name: Amur Cork Tree, Chinese Cork Tree, .Sakhalin Phellodendron
Species Origin: N.E. Asia, Manchuria, Japan
New Jersey Status: USDA Introduced
Habit: 30 -45’ tall x with an equal or greater width.
Habitat: Zones 3 – 7. Moist places near streams.
Trunk/Stem: Bark gray brown, thick, corky with prominent ridges. Twigs covered by corky spots.
Leaves: Deciduous, Compound (up to 13 leaflets with odd number), Opposite. Odd-pinnately compound leaf 10 – 14” long with up to 5 – 13 leaflets, ovate to lanceolate, taper-tipped (acuminate), and acute base; margins entire to untoothed to finely toothed. Blade above smooth,deep green; below blue-green with hairs at the base of the yellow-tinged midrib. Leaves turn yellow in autumn. Rachis tomentose. Compound leaves reminiscsent of Fraxinus (Ash). The axillary buds are hidden, enclosed in the large base of the petiole.
Flowers: Dioecious. Yellow green, 5 -8 sepals and petals; 5 -6 stamens borne in clusters of 2 – 3 on ½” long x 1 ½ 3”wide panicles in late May. Not showy flowers.
Fruits and seeds: 1/8” green long-ovoid, ½” diameter drupe; ripening to black with strong turpentine scent when injured; ripening in October and persisting into winter. Fruit borne only on female trees in clusters.