Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Chinese Pistache, Chinese Pistachio
Pistacia chinensis

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Family: Anacardiaceae (an-a-kard-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Pistacia (piss-TAY-shee-uh) (Info)
Species: chinensis (chi-NEN-sis) (Info)

Synonym:Pistacia formosana
Synonym:Pistacia philippinensis
Synonym:Rhus argyi
Synonym:Rhus gummifera

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

8 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Trees

Height:
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

Spacing:
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Danger:
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
Red
Pale Green

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring

Foliage:
Grown for foliage
Deciduous
Smooth-Textured

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds

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There are a total of 35 photos.
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Profile:

7 positives
5 neutrals
7 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive jazzy1okc On Sep 30, 2013, jazzy1okc from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:

This tree is one tough cookie! One of the top four trees highly recommended for its ability to withstand high winds, floods, ice storms, and everything else the climate here throws its way. The roots are not invasive, it does not shed anything but its leaves, it does not attract bothersome critters or insects, and it provides excellent shade.

Positive floramakros On Dec 3, 2012, floramakros from Davis, CA wrote:

Hi folks. Maybe Texas has a different variety but I don't recognize my trees in your description. I have a pair in the Sacramento Valley. I love these trees! Their fall color starts red but then pumps up to a brilliant yellow that defies description, much brighter even than ginkgos. They will stop neighborhood traffic if planted in the front yard (I've even had people driving by stop and come to my door to ask about the trees!) Mine are quite old, at least 50 yrs. They were planted as adults in 1975 (not by me!) My current home was part of a new development on a piece of treeless farmland then, so large trees were planted. The female is in the backyard and the male is in the front, he's over twice her height (sexual dimorphism?) It would make sense since I believe these are wind pollinated. In the spring he releases masses of pollen, they literally form small drifts on my driveway, the pollen "catkins" are visually unusual. The summer leaves are delicate and quite lovely, probably the best shade tree I've ever had. But the real fireworks are in the backyard. The female produces masses of grape-bunch looking nuts covered by green flesh. These turn yellow and then a very bright red, a minority turn bright blue, some are more purple but those are probably nuts in the process of changing color. WIth a green leaf backdrop she looks like a giant Christmas Wreath made of Holly Berries, spectacular! Then when all her leaves have fallen the beautiful bunches of nuts remain, they can easily be spotted from blocks away. Looking up into her canopy from below makes you never want to leave. Perhaps this cultivar was bred for its lack of germination because I've never had problems with seedlings. You will also never see so much wildlife in your life, I've counted over 50 bird species that visit her to eat the nuts, including species like Northern red-shafted flickers and large Pileated Woodpeckers that you wouldn't expect to feed on them. Yellow-Billed Magpies (an endemic species only found in the Sacramento Valley) love them too, they look like Mynah Birds with very long tails. There are tiny finches that eat the still unripe green nuts and various others who only eat certain stages, some will only feed on fallen ones but most like to pick them off the tree. I can imagine a birder checking off his entire species bucket list just by watching my tree through a window! Squirrels love them too and play like monkeys in the tree all day, the entertainment is endless. I would never see many of these species in person if it wasn't for her, that alone makes her presence valuable beyond measure. If you lay still under her, some of the rarest birds in the area will feed just feet above you in perfect calm. This is truly one of the few trees I can honestly say has changed my life and brought nature literally to my doorstep.

Negative vossner On Jul 22, 2012, vossner from Richmond, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

I remember when Chinese Pistache was the darling of the gardening/landscaping community and not long ago, either. Now it has become a nightmare.

Kudzu deja vu all over again.....(hope not)

Negative TreeGuyCliff On Jul 21, 2012, TreeGuyCliff from Austin, TX wrote:

If I could rate this tree more negatively than Negative, I would.

Te Chinese pistache has been planted in public spaces and sold in nurseries in Austin, Texas, for at least 20 years. And it has turned out to be a time bomb, producing an explosively expanding wave of seedlings throughout the parks, preserves, and other natural areas throughout Central Texas. It was initially recommended for its fall color, handsome form, moderately fast growth rate, tolerance of alkaline soils, and resistance to disease and pests. Its invasive tendencies quickly moved it from the recommended list to the "do not plant" list.

As for whether its seed is viable, each female tree produces hundreds of panicles of seed, each containing hundreds of seeds. So one female tree produces tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of fruits. You can tell how many fruits contain a fertile seed: If they're black or blue, they do; if they're red, they don't. If they're missing, they're a black or blue seed that was eaten by a bird.

Using that color system, my offhand observation is that easily half of the seeds produced in my area are fertile. Even if I'm off by a factor of 10, we're still talking thousands of viable seeds per female tree. And the germination rate for scarified seeds in the greenhousea pretty close approximation of a seed that has passed through a bird's gutis 30 percent.

So for each female tree, we're talking hundreds to tens of thousands of new seedlings. EACH YEAR.

For those of you who are planting seedless cultivars, that just means they're male trees. So you are supplying more pollen to all the female trees already out there. And that means that even more of the seeds the females produce will be viable. (Funny how that birds-and-the-bees-and-the-flowers-and-the-trees thing works, isn't it?)

Do not plant this tree.

If you have it growing in your yard, cut it down and turn it into mulch for the well-behaved tree you will plant to replace it. (In Granbury and other places in or close to the limestone belt that extends along I-35 south to San Antonio and then along U.S. 90 almost to Del Rio, the native chinquapin oak is an outstanding replacement. It has comparable fall color varying from burgundy to red to golden, depending on the individual tree, is at least as drought resistant, and grows faster, but isn't weak-wooded. In rural areas, you might like that its acorns make outstanding food for deer.)

If you see it growing in the wild, get permission and RIP IT OUT.

Negative Gianinatio On Aug 16, 2011, Gianinatio from Austin, TX wrote:

I have never planted this tree, nor do I see great numbers of large trees planted in this part of west Austin (the hills). However, I've been living in this same spot for 20 years now and within the past 3 years or so i've noticed an alarming number of seedlings coming up everywhere in my yard, in the park, in the wilderness areas. They are easy to identify from similarly leafed walnuts and sumacs because of their strong aroma. Even this years excessive drought and heat have not killed seedlings off. I'm certain from what I've seen that they are on the path to be more invasive than any of our current invasive species (ligustrum lucidum, Chinese Tallow, photinia, nandina, Chinaberry) and agree with other comments that they should be banned. In all places I have seen them I don't know where the source female tree is located, indicating how far from the source the birds can seed these trees.

Negative Wesleys_trees On Jul 8, 2011, Wesleys_trees from San Jose, CA wrote:

The Chinese Pistache tree was planted in parking strips along residential areas in the City of San Jose, Ca in the 1970's. These trees provide great shade in the hot summer. The female tree produces huge amounts of berries. The birds nest and eat and poop purple all over the street and vehicles parked under them. The male trees produce huge pollen clusters in the Spring. The Fall leaf color is spectacular however.

The problem is the full grown tree is an accident waiting to happen. The wood is a very soft type that will easily snap or break off large (6 inch diameter or larger) limbs. They have been doing this for the past few years during very hot spells where the temperatures are in the mid to high 90's for several days. Most fall onto the sidewalks or street parking spaces.

Several trees are also toppling over due to apparent root rot. All this without any apparent warning. They just start leaning over and will crush any vehicle they fall over onto.

Finally, the mature trees send out horizontal roots that lift sidewalks and will extend under the streets and lift the curbs.

In San Jose, the homeowner is responsible to maintain (replace the sidewalks and street curbs) and be liable for any and all damage even when the tree is in the public way infront of their homes. The homeowner also must obtain a City permit (free of charge) to prune these trees. The homeowner is responsible for any costs of pruning. They also must obtain permission from the City to remove or replace these trees.

This problem seems to be caused by the mature tree. So if you are planting a new tree and do not plan to be around in 25 or more years, this may not be a problem for you.

Positive JerryAssburger On Apr 29, 2011, JerryAssburger from Peyton, CO wrote:

As in a previous post, I lived in the Phoenix area, and this tree was becoming one of the "Best Kept Secrets" because hardly anyone carried or planted them a few years ago; mainly because Chinese Pistaches are a bit slow to develop into a shapely tree. Right before I left for Colorado, they were starting to catch on. A nice tree for the patient! I'm now attempting to grow one in Peyton, Colorado (out on The Plains) just to see how well it will do. It's pretty close to it's Northern Climate limit, but otherwise should do ok. Last fall (the 1st year) an early frost hardly allowed it to change colors before dumping its leaves. I'll report later this Summer on how its doing.

Positive Gardeningman On Feb 16, 2011, Gardeningman from Kingman, KS wrote:

The Chinese Pistache is a great tree despite the bad rap it has gotten for being invasive. Only the female trees are invasive and that is only if there is a male tree near by to pollinate the flowers. The seeds in the unpolinated fruit, which remain red, will not germinate. There is also a new male cultivor 'Keith Davies' that doesn't produce any fruit.
As far as "mesiness" goes, I don't find the Chinese Pistache any messier than any other tree. Oak trees produce acorns, maple trees produce maple seeds, elm trees drop twigs every where, and all trees grow leaves My point is that all trees are "messy". If you don't like to rake up a "mess" then don't plant any trees. Personally, I would rather deal with tiny berries than acorns or maple seeds. At least you can mow over the berries and they don't blow around. But that is just what I prefer.
I recommend the Chinese Pistache; just make sure you plant a solitary tree in case it ends up being a female or choose the 'Keith Davies' cultivor.

Negative aggiebot5 On Oct 13, 2010, aggiebot5 from College Station, TX wrote:

Really heat tolerant, great fall color, good shade, nice shape. You'd think it'd be a wonderful tree. However, it has escaped cultivation and is displacing native trees. It has the potential to be very, very serious. We don't need another exotic weed. Please don't plant this!

Neutral susie70 On Sep 23, 2010, susie70 from Albuquerque, NM wrote:

We have found what looks like sap leaking and crusting over from an area with a few cracks on one of the more mature limbs. The tree is 5 years old and healthy and leaves are dark green with little or no die off.
The spot in question is about 3 inches in diameter and is on a limb about 4 feet off the ground and the damaged area is near the trunk of the tree. I have asked the local horticultural extension agent about it and sent her a picture. From what I read from info on this tree, the spot could be a canker, for which there is not treatment or cure.
I may ignore it and see what happens as it is a nice shade tree on our patio.

Neutral BillChilton On Dec 2, 2009, BillChilton from Granbury, TX wrote:

Planted 5 chinese pistache trees in march 2008, 2 in back yard abd 3 in the front. Both in back yard ( 1 male & 1 female) are great. All 3 in the front (2 female, 1 male) are terrible, loosing leaves early and not growing well. Both areas, front & rear, get the same watering and have the same type of soil. Any suggestions? If so email me at w\illycc1@charter.net.

Negative Agaveguy On May 20, 2009, Agaveguy from San Antonio, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

This plant was highly promoted for landscapes over the past 30 years. It is now becoming a severely invasive, foreign pest in central Texas. It should be banned.

Negative clinsley On Sep 4, 2007, clinsley from San Jose, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This tree was planted by the city of San Jose next to the street a few years ago. Unlike GennyQ, we do have blooms and fruit. It's a nice shade tree, but it is messy and it seeds itself freely; we have dozens of seedlings all over the yard.

Neutral frostweed On Dec 27, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Chinese Pistache, Chinese Pistachio Pistacia chinensis is naturalized in Texas and other States and is considered an invasive plant in Texas.

Neutral escambiaguy On Dec 8, 2005, escambiaguy from Atmore, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

There are alot of these trees planted in the town square of a neighboring town. I have not noticed any great fall color this year. My main concern with these trees is that they may become invasive like alot of other asian trees.

Neutral doss On May 9, 2005, doss from Stanford, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

First the positive. In warmer regions, I believe that this is the best plant for fall red color - the Ginko gets the yellow prize. It forms a dense shade canopy rather quickly, while still being a long lived tree. The leaves are very attractive and lacy looking. It is one of my very favorite trees to look at. It forms a beautiful crown with little pruning and is hardy enough to use in strip plantings beside roads. People come from other neighborhoods each fall to see a street that is planted with nothing else. It's pretty breathtaking.

The drawbacks are that it forms dense shade, if that's a problem. And the berries at the end of summer have a very pungent smell that I'm not fond of. The dropping berries can make this tree a little messy too - and when you step on them they release their pungent odor big time. Some may not mind this, or may even find it pleasant. I wouldn't plant it in my back yard but would be happy to plant it in an area where I could appreciate it from a little distance.

Positive GennyQ On Jul 24, 2004, GennyQ from San Jose, CA wrote:

We have 2 of these trees in our front yard in San Jose, Ca. Since they were established (the first year), I haven't had to water them at all... they seem to have found their own water source. We're subject to long periods of drought, yet these trees have thrived and flourished. We've had absolutely no blooms or fruit (read: no mess) - they're 4-5 years old. Their color display in the Fall is GORGEOUS!

Positive agl On Dec 29, 2003, agl from Dallas, TX wrote:

I planted 4 in my landscape in Dallas Tx. Each were 3", balled and burlapped and around 12 ft or so. After planting, I used drip bags to establish. After 2 years they are now around 25 feet apiece and I have experienced no watering problem or excessive fruit. My fall display depended upon how much watering was received as they approach dormancy. I cut in half the watering 4/6 weeks before then (typically late October here) and experienced Flaming Red showings.

Positive htop On Sep 3, 2003, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

A fast growing, beautiful tree that provides shade in a short period of time, the Pistache is a recommended tree for southcentral Texas. My specimen was planted when it was about 6 feet tall. It had to be "topped" in order for lateral branches to emege where I wanted them to do so.

The information on the tag stated that it was nonbearing; however, it produces numerous small clusters of flowers which develop into clusters of very small pistachio nuts. These would be okay except they fall all over my patio area and into my container plantings and have to be constantly removed. New trees develop from these and are easily pulled up when small.

Being among oaks, the tree does not receive enough sunlight to enable it to exhibit the bright red foliage in the fall. Admittedly, the lack of fall coloring may be due to our usually mild temperatures in the fall; last year when we had earlier really cold weather, all of the trees whose foliage is able to turn to beautiful fall colors did so, and my Pistache was a little more colorful. Its bark is nicely mottled. After established it requires little water and maintenance (except for the litter pick up).

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

,
Atmore, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Benson, Arizona
Oracle, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona (2 reports)
Queen Creek, Arizona
Superior, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Altadena, California
Bonadelle Ranchos-madera Ranchos, California
Citrus Heights, California
Clayton, California
Davis, California
Lake Wildwood, California
Rancho Calaveras, California
San Jose, California (3 reports)
Simi Valley, California
Stanford, California
Temecula, California
Grand Junction, Colorado
Deltona, Florida
Kingman, Kansas
De Ridder, Louisiana
Las Vegas, Nevada
Albuquerque, New Mexico (2 reports)
El Cerro-monterey Park, New Mexico
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Davidson, North Carolina
Lima, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (2 reports)
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Yukon, Oklahoma
Austin, Texas (4 reports)
Dallas, Texas
Decordova, Texas
Hereford, Texas
Horizon City, Texas
Iredell, Texas
Irving, Texas
North Richland Hills, Texas
Port Arthur, Texas
Royse City, Texas
San Angelo, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (2 reports)
Weatherford, Texas
Wichita Falls, Texas
Lexington, Virginia
Martinsburg, West Virginia



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