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Chinese Pistache

Chinese pistache (pistacia chinensis), El Dorado Hills (10/27/21) John Poimiroo

One of the more ornamental of autumn trees is the Chinese pistache (pistacia chinensis).

Popular as a shade tree due to its height at maturity (30 to 60’), drought tolerance, non-invasive roots and broad canopy, its dark green foliage changes to a dramatic profusion of lime, yellow, orange, pink and red fluttering leaves in autumn.

What’s different about Chinese pistache is the iridescence of its color. The trees look absolutely luminous in sunlight.

Although the tree is related to pistacio, it does not produce nuts. Gardeningknowhow.com explains that when male varieties are present, female trees bloom in April with inconspicuous green blossoms that develop into clumps of brilliant red berries in fall, changing to blue-purple in winter.

Mature Chinese pistache, Moddison Ave., Sacramento (10/27/21) John Poimiroo

The website explains that “While the berries are inedible for human consumption, birds go nuts for them.” Though, the bright colored berries will drop and may stain or create a slippery walkway. The bark of growing Chinese pistache is grayish-brown and, if peeled from the tree, reveals a shocking salmon pink interior.

Presently, Chinese pistache are at glorious peak across California. The show varies from somber burgundy to fluorescent colors.

Chinese pistache, Los Gatos (10/23/21) Anson Davalos
  • El Dorado Hills (768’) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now.
  • Sacramento (30’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
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