You are here

Goldenrain Tree

Koelreuteria paniculata

Common Name: Goldenrain Tree, Pride of India, China Tree, Varnish Tree[1]

Scientific Name: Koelreuteria paniculata

In 1809, Thomas Jefferson received seeds from his Parisian friend, Madame de Tessé. He reported back to her in March 1811 that a seedling "has germinated, and is now growing. I cherish it with particular attentions, as it daily reminds me of the friendship with which you have honored me."[2] Jefferson's tree was likely the first grown in America, and Jefferson made the earliest American citation of this tree.[3] Goldenrain trees are now naturalized at Monticello.

The scientifically-minded French Jesuit, Pierre d'Incarville, was one of the few privileged explorers allowed in China during the mid-18th century. It is believed that, while in Peking, he collected the black, pea-sized seeds of the Goldenrain tree, which he entrusted to a Russian caravan on a westward trek to Europe. The seeds would eventually reach the Jardin du Roi in Paris and were being grown by 1763. However, according to Joan Dutton, the tree was introduced in England in 1560.[4]

The Goldenrain is a hardy, medium-sized, deciduous tree with large clusters of bright yellow flowers that cover the tree for several weeks in early summer, followed by papery pods.

Primary Source References[5]

1809 October 5. Planted 14. Paulina Aurea or Koelreuteria paniculata aurea in 2 boxes & a pot, to wit 4. in the pit, 4. in the large box, No 3.2 in the small one. No. 2. recieved [sic] the seeds from Mad. de Tesse."[6]


  1. This section is based on the Center for Historic Plants Information Sheet.
  2. 27 March 1811. Betts, Garden Book, 454-455.
  3. Denise Wiles Adams, Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc., 2004), 83.
  4. Joan Parry Dutton, Plants of (Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, 1979), 22.
  5. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  6. Betts, Garden Book, 387. Manuscript and transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Further Sources

Growth Type: 
Deciduous Tree
Hardiness Zones: 
Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
Location at Monticello: 
Vegetable Garden and near the South Dependencies
Planting Conditions: 
Full Sun
Blooming History: 
2001 Jun 25 to 2001 Jul 122002 Jun 12 to 2002 Jul 52004 Jun 8 to 2004 Jul 122005 Jun 10 to 2005 Jul 132006 Jun 13 to 2006 Jul 112007 Jun 14 to 2007 Jul 62008 Jun 18 to 2008 Jul 42009 Jun 11 to 2009 Jul 42010 Jun 9 to 2010 Jun 282011 Jun 7 to 2011 Jun 282012 May 24 to 2012 Jun 282013 Jun 10 to 2013 Jul 162014 Jun 11 to 2014 Jul 102017 Jun 10 to 2017 Jul 26
Visit Monticello’s Online Shop to check for seeds or plants of Goldenrain Tree.


Login or register to participate in our online community.