PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Chinese Toon Tree (Toona sinensis)

For some reason every time we say or read that name, scenes from the Roger Rabbit movie pop into our heads. It’s a weird name for a very cool tree. In China it is called Hsiang Chun Ya (Xiang Chun Ya ) and is a popular vegetable for stir fry, pickling, and in salads. The bark and leaves are also used in TCM. It grows from India to China and south to Malaysia, but is hardy here in the PNW.

Here in the Pacific Northwest Toona sinensis makes a great shade tree growing to about 35-45 feet tall in an urban setting. It gets taller than wide so it won’t create too much shade for the rest of the yard in urban settings. This is a very rare tree here but is suitable and hardy to zone 5.

The edible bits are the new spring shoots & leaves. These are also the most beautiful, emerging a peachy-coppery-gold, then turning to emerald green. These new shoots have a distinctive garlicky chive-like flavor with a nutty quality as well. In areas where they are regularly harvested for food, the trees are repeatedly pruned to keep them shorter and more shrub-like so the desirable parts are reachable.

The tree blooms in mid summer with small pinkish white clusters of flowers. These become fruits which are dry capsules that split open to release seeds in late winter. The seed pods are easily collected and are distinctive & interesting in floral arrangements.