This is a fairly common street tree in our area. It is Koelreuteria bipinnata, and the tree has several common names including: Articulated Golden Chain Tree, Chinese Flame Tree, Chinese Golden Rain Tree, Bougainvillea Golden-rain and Gold Raintree. As you might guess from the common names, it is a native of Asia. The genus name is in honor of Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter (1733 –1806), a German botanist who conducted many experiments on plant hybridization. The species name bipinnata refers to the twice pinnately compound leaves of this species.
This tree is interesting in both flower and fruit. An individual flower is shown in the photograph above. The contrasting red and yellow colors are striking. The flowers are “perfect” which in botanical lingo means they have both male (stamens) and female (pistil) organs. In this view the eight stamens protrude nicely from the flower. The base of the pistil is the shorter, trumpet-shaped structure just above the lowermost stamen.
After the tree has flowered, it produces these interesting capsules, which remain on the tree for quite some time. These are sometimes called “Chinese Lanterns” and can be used in dried flower arrangements.
Inside the capsules are several seeds that at this stage look remarkably like green peas. When mature they are used as beads in necklaces.