The Chinese Pistache is a medium sized ornamental tree belonging to the Anacardiaceae family. The plant is native to various parts of western and central China. However, this tree is grown in many temperate areas worldwide for its autumn foliage and beautiful fruits.
Chinese Pistache Scientific Name
The scientific name for this tree is “Pistacia chinensis”.
Chinese Pistache Description
The Chinese Pistache is a strong and hardy deciduous tree. It is capable of withstanding harsh weather conditions and poor soil quality.
Height: The tree normally grows up to a height of 9 to 15 meters. In some cases, the height can extend to up to 25 meters.
Crown: The tree develops a round and spreading canopy that can stretch for 25 to 35 feet. The branches are formed in a vase-like shape and have wide spaces in between them; this creates the effects of light and shade. The lower branches frequently droop downwards with time. The younger trees are somewhat asymmetrical and might have a weird appearance unless they are properly pruned. The older trees are more uniformly and densely shaped.
Bark: The bark of the tree is dark brown or light gray in color. The texture of the bark is scaly or furrowed. The wood of the tree is very hard and is resistant to breakages. The tree trunk grows at a rate of 2 feet per season.
Leaves: The leaves are pinnately compound. The leaf blade consists of 11 to 17 elliptical to oblong leaflets located alternately opposite to each other. The terminal leaflets are usually absent. The shape of the leaflet blades vary from lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate. The size of the leaflets is 5 to 10 cm by 1.5 to 2.5 cm. The leaf rachis is striated. The petiole is slightly pubescent and is about 1-2 mm in size. The leaves have prominent venation, an oblique base and a papery texture. The apex of the leaves is acuminate. The fall coloration of the leaves is quite impressive, ranging from crimson, scarlet, gold and orange to occasionally being yellow. The leaves have a nice fragrance.
Flowers: The flowers come out in April and May. The red flowers of the Chinese Pistache are produced in 15-20 cm long panicles located at the periphery of the branches. The flowers are dioecious, which means that the flowers are either male or female. The flowers come out before the leaves. The size of the male inflorescence is around 6 to 7 cm. The male flowers have clustered branches, 3 to 5 stamens, oblong anthers, 2 linear-lanceolate tepals and 2 lanceolate bracteoles. The anthers are 2 millimeter in size. The size of the lanceolate bracteoles is around 1.5 to 2 millimeters; they are slightly pubescent. The filaments are almost 0.3 millimeter to 0.4 millimeter. The pedicles of the flowers are 1 millimeter in size. The female flowers have 5 oblong or ovate tepals and 2 to 4 linear-lanceolate bracteoles. The tepals have a size of 0.7 millimeter to 1.5 millimeter. The ovary is globose, hairless and 0.5 millimeter in diameter. The stigmas are thick and red.
Fruits: Fruition occurs from August to November. The fruits are obovate-globose drupes having a diameter of 5 millimeter. They are slightly compressed. The fruits are longitudinally striated when they are dry. The fleshy mass of the fruit conceals a single seed inside them. The size of the fruits varies between 0.5 to 1.5 inches. The fruits are bright red in color that ripens to a dark blue. Sometimes green colored fruits may also be found.
Chinese Pistache Varieties
Some botanists consider “Pistacia integerrima” to be a subspecies of “Pistacia chinensis” and describe the “Pistacia chinensis” plant as “Pistacia chinensis chinensis”.
Chinese Pistache Habitat and Distribution
This plant is native to western and central parts of China and Taiwan. Chinese Pistache is also grown as a street or a park tree in temperate regions across the world including locations in America such as Orlando and Arizona.
Chinese Pistache grows on hilly areas and mountain forests at an elevation ranging between 100 meters and 3600 meters. The tree prefers rocky soils.
How to grow Chinese Pistache
Chinese Pistache is a fast-growing tree that can be easily cultivated. It is also highly heat and drought resistant as well as disease-free for most of the time. It is thus fairly easy to grow these plants. The various guidelines to grow these plants are given below:
The Chinese Pistache tree is intolerant of shade and requires full sun for proper growth. The branches of these trees can become misshapen under the influence of shade. Out of all the species of Pistacia, these trees are the most tolerant of frost. They are capable of surviving even at a temperature of -25°C. However, these trees are best grown in warmer climates. They are quite capable of surviving in extreme heat and drought conditions.
The plants should be watered regularly at their growing stages. Water requirements for this tree is average and overwatering should be avoided.
Soil and Fertilizer
The Chinese pistachio can grow in a wide array of soils including acidic, loamy, sandy, silt, clay, saline or alkaline soils. It can also survive in poor, calcareous and stony soils. The soil should be well drained and moist. The root of this tree penetrates the soil deeply.
At first, the soil should be prepared by digging and loosening it with a hoe or shovel to a depth of 12 inches and any rocks or debris collected in the process should be removed. The soil should be made loose so that it becomes easy for the roots to penetrate them. After the root ball is placed inside the dugout hole, the hole should be well drained with water. More soil and water are to be added alternatively with a time gap to allow the water to drain.
Complete fertilizers like 10-10-10 NPK should be added during the spring months in adequate amounts. These trees do not require a regular dosage of nitrogen fertilizer.
The Chinese Pistache grows well in a wide range of soil pH. The soil pH varies with the type of soil. The ideal soil pH required by this plant for certain specific soil types are given below:
- Alkaline – 7.9 to 8.5
- Mildly Alkaline – 7.6 to 7.8
- Neutral – 6.6 to 7.5
- Mildly Acidic – 6.1 to 6.5
For plants reaching up to a height of 9 to 12 meters, a minimum space of 30 to 40 feet should be maintained. A space of 20 to 30 feet is usually sufficient for plants growing up to 6 to 9 meters.
During the early years of the plant, there is a tendency to develop branches at the wrong places or even the number of branches being low. Due to this, structural pruning in these years becomes necessary to develop an evenly shaped crown and adequately spaced branches. While developing a tree from a young sapling, the tree must be pruned from the top for the adequate development of branches. Regular pruning at key places help to maintain the desired shape of the tree.
Dead woods should be removed from time to time. Pruning helps to control the size of the slow growing trees. Pruning is not much required for removing interfering branches after the initial training. Heavy pruning can reduce the yield of flowers and fruits.
Pests and Diseases
These trees are normally very sturdy, strong and disease-free. However, it can sometimes get infected by fungal diseases such as the Verticillium wilts. They are also prone to be infected by Armillaria mellea, an oak root fungus, pests like Anapleura lentisci, aphid as well as some stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs.
The Chinese Pistache is propagated from the seeds. The blue-colored pollinated seeds need to be harvested and collected and cleaned. Soak them for a couple of days and then remove the flesh of these seeds. Rinse them thoroughly and then allow the seeds to dry; this may take a couple of days. Prepare seed flats having a mixture of half perlite and half peat and then plant the seeds in them. Use potting to cover the seeds and pour water on them. Then place the seeds in a lukewarm place. The potting medium should be kept moist. After a while the seeds will begin to germinate. The germinating seeds should then be placed in larger pots and placed outdoors after all the chances of frost are gone.
If you want to propagate Chinese Pistache from stem cuttings, you should collect strong, healthy shoots. The shoots should be at a stage where they are losing their flexibility and becoming woody but are still enough flexible. The cuttings should be at least 4 inches long. Since this method is not the best one to propagate these trees, more stem cuttings are needed to get the adequate amount of results.
The seeds should be harvested when the unblemished fruits have reached an overripe stage. The nuts of these plants are harvested at a time when the hull or husk that covers the shell becomes loose. Shaking the tree will bring down most of the matured nuts. A matured tree is capable of producing almost 50 pounds of hulled and dry nuts. The hulls are needed to be removed quickly to prevent the shells from getting stained. The nuts can be soaked in water and dried in the sun. This will make it easier to remove the hulls.
Chinese Pistache Uses
It is considered to be an important plant in the horticultural world and is frequently used to design classical Chinese garden.
The leaves and young shoots of this plant are cooked and used as a vegetable. The seeds are consumed roasted. They can also be used in confectionary.
Some of the other uses of the plant are listed below:
- In China, the oil extracted from the seeds is used in producing biodiesel.
- The timber from the tree is used in making furniture.
- Chinese Pistache is also used as rootstock for the related plant Pistacia vera.
- The plant is used to produce a yellow dye.
Chinese Pistache Interesting Facts
Here are some interesting facts about these trees:
- The name Pistache given to this tree as well as all the fruit bearing trees of the “Pistacia” genus comes from the Persian word “pistah” which is the name given to the nuts growing in these trees.
- During the fall, the leaves of this tree produce bright coloration which ranges from scarlet and crimson to gold and orange.
- The tree is sometimes described as an “Ugly Duckling” as they are very lanky and weird shaped when they are young but turn out to be beautiful and spreading as they mature.
- These trees have a long lifespan, sometimes surviving for hundreds of years.
Chinese Pistache Images
Here are some images of these trees showing them in all their beautiful coloration.
The Chinese Pistache is an important gardening tree that is fairly easy to grow. It has also gained wide popularity due to the beautiful fall coloration of its leaves. The asymmetrical and weird-shaped branch formation during its early years have sometimes made it unpopular in the past, but they should be grown more as they are one of the most hardy and beautiful trees around.