AskIFAS Powered by EDIS

Styphnolobium japonicum 'Columnaris': Columnar Scholar Tree

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, and Deborah R. Hilbert


This cultivar of pagoda tree probably has a height of about 40 feet and spread of 15 to 20 feet, forming a fine-textured, upright canopy. It has a rapid growth rate and tolerates polluted city conditions, heat, and drought. The tree prefers a sunny, open location on any light soil. The very showy, greenish-white to yellow flowers are produced in mid- to late-summer and provide an airy feel to the tree for several weeks. A yellow dye can be made by boiling the dried flowers and buds in water. The young green twigs turn a dark grey with age. It has been reported that the species must be about 10-years-old to bloom, but the cultivar 'Regent' apparently blooms at an earlier age.

Middle-aged Styphnolobium japonicum 'Columnaris': columnar scholar tree.
Figure 1. Middle-aged Styphnolobium japonicum 'Columnaris': columnar scholar tree.
Credit: UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Styphnolobium japonicum

Pronunciation: stiff-no-lobe-ee-um juh-PAWN-ih-kum

Common name(s): Columnar scholar tree, columnar Japanese pagoda tree

Family: Fabaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 5A through 8A (Figure 2)

Origin: not native to North America

Invasive potential: not assessed/incomplete assessment

Uses: specimen; street without sidewalk; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); tree lawn 3-4 feet wide; tree lawn 4-6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; urban tolerant; highway median

Figure 2. Range.
Credit: UF/IFAS


Height: 35 to 45 feet

Spread: 15 to 20 feet

Crown uniformity: symmetrical

Crown shape: columnar, upright/erect

Crown density: moderate

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Figure 3)

Leaf type: odd-pinnately compound

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: ovate

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: deciduous

Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches

Leaf color: green

Fall color: yellow

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. Foliage.
Credit: UF/IFAS


Flower color: white/cream/gray, yellow

Flower characteristics: showy


Fruit shape: pod or pod-like, elongated

Fruit length: 3 to 6 inches, 6 to 12 inches

Fruit covering: dry or hard

Fruit color: brown, yellow

Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; not showy; typically one trunk; thorns

Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: green

Current year twig thickness: thin, medium

Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun

Soil tolerances: sand; loam; clay; acidic; alkaline; well-drained; occasionally wet

Drought tolerance: high

Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate


Roots: not a problem

Winter interest: no

Outstanding tree: no

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown

Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

The tree drops flower petals creating a creamy white carpet for several weeks on the ground, but they can temporarily stain sidewalks. The yellow fruit pods form in late summer and are quite showy, dropping later in the winter and could be a nuisance to some people. But they are small and fairly easily washed away. The leaflets are small, creating light shade beneath the tree and are mostly washed away with rain or fall into shrub beds or between the grass blades.

Some trees come from the nursery with multiple trunks or branches clustered together at one spot on the trunk. Buy those with one central trunk growing up the center of the tree or prune the tree to a central leader to create a strong, durable structure. Space branches along the central leader to ensure good branch attachment. It may take several prunings to train the tree to the proper form.

This urban-tough tree is highly recommended for urban planting. It adapts to restricted soil spaces, tolerates salt spray, and tolerates drought in reasonable soil but not wet soil. Best when planted in full sun. This species has a few other cultivars: 'Pendula'—weeping habit; 'Princeton Upright'—upright form suitable for narrow sites, somewhat smaller than the species; 'Regent'—oval crown and blooms at an early age, has glossy leaves which shed soot and dirt, readily available in nurseries.


Potato leafhopper kills young stems causing profuse branching or witches’ broom on small branches. It usually is not a problem on larger trees.


Styphnolobium species is generally pest- and disease-free.

Occasionally, scholar tree will get a fungus canker about two-inches or less across, have raised reddish brown margins and light brown centers. The infected stem is killed when the fungus girdles the stem. Another fungus is sometimes found on dead branches on Styphnolobium species. Frost injury may give both fungi an entrance into the tree. Prune out dead, damaged, or diseased branches.

Twig blight or dieback can be a problem occasionally. Prune out infected branches and avoid unnecessary wounding. Keep trees vigorous by regular fertilization.

Powdery mildew forms a fungus mat which looks like a white coating on the leaves. The disease is usually not serious.

Publication #ENH-751

Release Date:May 6, 2024

Related Collections

Part of Southern Trees Fact Sheets

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is ENH-751, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006 and March 2024. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Deborah R. Hilbert, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Department of Environmental Horticulture; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Michael Andreu
thumbnail for publication: Styphnolobium japonicum 'Columnaris': Columnar Scholar Tree