Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Meet This Tree: The Chinese Pistache

The Chinese pistache is drought tolerant and can be planted in narrow parkways as a street tree, in parks, or as an accent tree in one’s garden. (all photos from Emina Darakjy)

Editor’s Note: This week we feature another tree from Emina Darakjy, a very knowledgeable tree enthusiast we are lucky to call a Buzz contributor. When we started this feature, we had just reported on the latest loss of a mature street tree. We hope these columns, featuring trees that will do well in our neighborhoods, will inspire readers to plant new trees. Planting a tree is a simple step we can all take to combat climate change and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Please feel free to email at [email protected] us if you have any tree questions for Emina! 

Pistachia chinensis, Chinese pistache
Family: Anacardiaceae
Native to China, Taiwan and the Philippines

The Chinese pistache is a good shade tree with a rounded crown, fast growing when young and can reach a height of 40 to 50 feet tall with an equal spread. The tree is briefly deciduous. When young this tree can benefit from pruning during the winter but rarely requires any pruning when mature.

The trunk or bark of the Chinese Pistachio is grayish-brown and becomes fissured as the tree matures.

The trunk or bark is grayish-brown, smooth at first, becoming fissured as the tree matures.

The leaves change from green to a mix of a fiery shade of red, orange and bright yellow in the fall.

The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, green at first before turning into a mix of a fiery shade of red, orange and bright yellow producing a stunning display of fall color. The leaves are aromatic when crushed.

It is related to the pistachio tree but does not produce any nuts, instead the female Pistachia chinensis produces clusters of small round vivid red fruit turning to blue and purple in the fall. The fruit can be a nuisance creating a slip hazard when they fall on the ground.

The female Pistachia chinensis produces clusters of small round vivid red fruit turning to blue and purple in the fall.
Birds love the fruit, especial parrots.

The fruit attracts many bird species especially parrots who go crazy over them. If this is a concern, consider planting a fruitless grafted male variety instead. You can then enjoy the spectacular explosion of fall color whether the tree is male or female.

This tree tolerates almost any type of soil from alkaline to acidic, does better in a sunny location, is drought tolerant and can be planted in narrow parkways as a street tree, in parks, or as an accent tree in one’s garden. The tree is relatively pest free but is susceptible to verticillium wilt and root disease.

A beautiful tree that does not disappoint if you are looking to enjoy fall colors this time of the year.

This stunning Chinese pistache was photographed in the fall.

Emina Darakjy is a past president of Pasadena Beautiful and its present Tree Program Chair. Darakjy says she has always had a passion for trees and that she is involved with several other tree organizations such as California Re-Leaf, the Arbor Day Foundation and American Forests. She is a past president of Street Tree Seminar Inc. and the present president of the California Urban Forests Council.

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