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While serving as Minister to France from 1784 to 1789, Jefferson began a warm friendship with Madame de Tessé, the aunt of the Marquis de Lafayette, and maintained an active correspondence with her until her death in 1814. As he did with many of his acquaintances at home and abroad, he encouraged her to send plants and seeds for cultivation at Monticello and elsewhere in the United States. On June 12, 1809, Jefferson received from her "seeds of the Paullinia or Koelreuteria," and two years later was able to report that a tree had grown from that shipment. "I cherish it with particular attentions," he wrote, "as it daily reminds me of the friendship with which you have honored me." Through this exchange, it is believed that Jefferson introduced Koelreuteria paniculata to Albemarle County, VA, and it is likely he was also the first to introduce it into the United States.
The Goldenrain Tree shows striking golden-yellow blooms for several weeks in early summer. These are followed by an nearly equal ornamental growth of lantern-like seed pods (shown at lower left) that range in color from green to yellow to brown.