pistache trees may be male or female. Female trees produce red
fruits that ripen to purple. Though not edible, birds find them
The flaming fall
foliage of the Chinese pistache trees in Savannah are a visual
testaments that they are indeed champions of color. The fiery oranges,
reds, and yellows scream as if to say look at me. Believe me, you
will, and if you are packing a camera, you will take a photo. They are
not to be ignored.
Here at the
Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, we have several. It is almost
reminiscent of a family in that we have the young or kids, the adult
aged group both male and female and the grandparent which in reality
is the Georgia State Champion.
State Champion Tree stands one of the true testaments to one of our
country’s great plant exploration acquisitions, the Chinese pistache.
This was discovered by plant explorer and horticultural hero if you
will Frank Meyer. I am surprised that I walk by this tree every day
and just now noticed the old USDA tag hanging down that says it was
planted in 1938. We are approaching its 80th birthday.
Georgia Botanical Gardens got its start as a USDA Plant Introduction
Station, and today many of those early obtainments are monolithic in
size but growing confirmation of plant durability and performance. Few
of us ever think about a Chinese pistache getting large enough for a
tree house and in the case of this one perhaps the whole house.
If you are not
familiar with the Chinese pistache, botanically speaking it is known
as Pistachia Chinensis. I first became acquainted with the Chinese
pistache when it was selected as a Texas Super Star Winner. Texas fall
color was hard to come by, but this tree was rock solid and reliable.
In California, it has been used a rootstock for the delicious
pistachio nut trees though other species have now been chosen.
pistache is also drought tolerant. Just think it is recommended in
places like New Mexico and Arizona and is native to Western China.
When selecting your location keep in mind that it does not like wet
winter feet so choose a site that drains well. It is cold hardy from
zones 6 through 9 meaning from St. Louis to Orlando gardeners can
relish the dark green leaves that become a blaze of fall color.
pistache like a holly in that they are dioecious, meaning there are
both male and female trees. The female will produce fruit that is a
small red drupe turning blue when ripe which are attractive in all
stages. If you are considering planting one close to a sidewalk, porch
or driveway, you may want a male where-as out in the landscape you may
find the fruit attractive. While they are not edible, the birds
certainly will have a feast.
always wanting fast-growing trees, and though fast is not always good
for selecting trees, the Chinese pistache certainly holds its own. It
is not uncommon to see 2 to 3 feet of growth a year. Fall is a
terrific time to plant. To grow yours choose a site in full sun. Set
out nursery-grown plants, into well-drained moist fertile soil. Dig
the hole 3 to 5 times as wide as the root ball but no deeper. The top
of the rootball should be even with the soil surface. This will give
you the best root expansion and in your landscape.
pistache can look a little leggy or lanky in its early years but turns
from the ugly duckling into the beautiful swan with a nice oval shape.
In the second year prune lanky looking branches to encourage branch
development. Feed in late winter with an application of an 8-8-8
fertilizer at 1 pound per 100 square feet of planted area. This is the
area from the trunk to just outside the canopy.
pistache is being widely used for city beautification, from city and
college landscapes to public gardens like the Coastal Georgia
Botanical Gardens in Savannah. I assure you they will do the same for
your landscape too!