In 1985, the world renowned plantsman, JC Raulston travelled to Korea on a collecting trip sponsored by the United States National Arboretum. Among the hundreds of seeds that were collected was a seed of the Korean sweetheart tree, Euscaphis japonica.
In 1993 the Scott Arboretum received a package of plants from JC Raulston of the North Carolina State University Arboretum (today know as the JC Raulston Arboretum.) One of the small plants in that box was a seedling of Euscaphis japonica. We grew the plant in our growing area until 1998 when it reached sufficient size to be planted at the south end of Beardsley Hall.
Today, this small ornamental tree is about fifteen feet tall with an eight-foot spread. The grey colored bark has white striations which give it some winter interest. The leaves are pinnately compound which give it an interesting textural quality. But the fruits are really why you would grow this plant. In late summer the clusters of heart-shaped fruits ripen. They transform from green to pink to red. In early to mid-October they split open revealing a tiny, shiny, black seed. The seeds don’t immediately fall out but sit within the red seed cases adding to the ornamental look of the plant.
This tough tree can grow in a variety of soils, but will thrive and fruit best in full sun.
This tree is still relatively unknown in American gardens, however, there are some nurserymen who have collected seeds. Perhaps, it is just a matter of time before this becomes a popular ornamental tree.