Chinese Mahogany

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
Toona sinensis, commonly known as Chinese Mahogany or the Chinese Cedar, is a deciduous tree found in woodland habitats. It originates in East Asia and is specifically found in northern and western China. It requires sun to grow, and does best in moist, but well-drained soil. It is a fast-growing and hardy species that resists attack by both pests and diseases. It is also highly tolerant of frost and can survive in moderate drought conditions. This particular tree is located near the greenhouses at Yale's Marsh Botanical Gardens.
Ashlynn Torres and Anne Zlatow
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
10.40 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.15 m

The bark of the Chinese Mahogany is gray to dark brown and fissured, which means that it has cracks in it. Especially in older trees, the bark is scalier. The inner bark is a pink color. In addition, the bark has medicinal purposes. It can be used to treat diarrhea, flatulence, and gonorrhea, among other diseases. The bark can also be used to treat fever, and has astringent properties that help it to stop bleeding. It is also used for making furniture and window frames. Finally, because of its delicate scent, the wood is often used as incense in temples.
Twigs & branches
As deciduous plants, these trees lose their leaves in the winter. They have lenticels running up on their branches, which allow for gases to be exchanged between the bark and the atmosphere. There are girdle scars along the branches, which are formed when the terminal bud begins extending in the spring. Twigs have a collection of lateral branches on them, where buds can form and flower. These lateral branches are short. Typically, these trees flower in July.
In spring, the foliage is reddish pink, later becomes dark green, and in autumn, turns yellow. Leaves are pinnate and generally have 10-20 leaflets. These are about 6-14 cm long. The leaf itself is generally 30-60 cm long.
Reproductive Structures
The star-shaped fruit contains winged seeds, often spanning anywhere from 2 to 3.5 centimeters. This adaptation of the seeds allows them to be spread by the winds to increase the range of the tree. Toona trees can also “sucker,” which is a form of asexual reproduction known as vegetative reproduction. The plant grows not from a seed, but from part of the root or base of the tree and grows near the original plant.
The fruit and leaves of Toona sinensis are edible, and are often used in teas. The leaves have an onion-like taste and are rich in vitamin A. The shoots and leaves are often cooked in stir fry, salads, can be fried or pickled, and are also used as a seasoning. The fruit of the tree is a star-shaped capsule with winged-seeds.
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Fall
  • Winter
Natural range of distribution: 
The Toona sinensis originated in East Asia and is prominent in Northern and Western China. There are also many of these trees in Indonesia, Taiwan, Nepal, Myanmar, India, Malaysia, and North Korea. It does well in woodland and subtropical environments.
Origin, history, and uses: 

Origin / History

Prominent in Chinese culture, the Toona sinensis has been recognized for its medicinal purposes. Known as 香椿 (xiāngchūn) in Chinese, the tree is also often mentioned to symbolically represent the father in Chinese poetry and literature. Examples include references in early Chinese literature such as in the Zhuangzi, a Daoist text compiled during the Warring States Period, as well as later in classics such as “The Journey to the West,” a famous episodic novel written in the Ming Dynasty.


As discussed above, the leaves of the Toona sinensis tree are eaten, used in teas, and in medicines. It is also used for furniture.

The leaves of the tree are often eaten, but have specific medical importance. In traditional Chinese medicine, they have been used to treat a variety of ailments. Interestingly, eating leaves from the tree seems to have positive effects on semen quality for males, increasing sperm motility and ATP levels. Although Chinese medicine has appreciated this treatment for its benefits for many years, only recently have scientific studies been published to establish the mechanisms behind this.

Little is known about the phenology of Toona sinensis. Generally, the trees flower in July. Another thing that is known for sure is that the species requires adequate space to grow to have proper and regular leaf growth. These conditions are also necessary for the tree’s vertical growth and proper diameter development. The Toona sinensis has an annual tree-ring formation, which can only occur when the cambium becomes dormant at some point during the year. The dormancy is observable, because it results in loss of leaves during the dry season. As the tree gets larger, it will become dormant for longer periods of time. By studying the structure of tree-rings, scientists can make inferences about the environmental conditions that the trees have grown up in. The Toona sinensis has a relatively large range, but because it is so hardy and can withstand many climates, the tree-ring structures of the tree are generally preserved regardless of where it grows.

“Design Standards for Urban Infrastructure.” ACT Government. ACT Government, n.d. Web.

Heinrich, Ingo, and John C. G. Banks. “Variation in Phenology, Growth, and Wood Anatomy of Toona Sinensis and Toona Ciliata in Relation to Different Environmental Conditions.” International Journal of Plant Sciences, vol. 167, no. 4, 2006, pp. 831–841.,

“Landscape Plants.” Landscape Plants. Oregon State University, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

“Toona Sinensis.” Pfaf Plant Search. Plants for a Future, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

“Trees and Shrubs: Removing Suckers and Seedlings.” Royal Horticultural Society. The Royal Horticultural Society, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

Yu, Bu-Chin et al. “ Toona Sinensis Leaf Aqueous Extract Improves the Functions of Sperm and Testes via Regulating Testicular Proteins in Rats under Oxidative Stress.” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM 2012 (2012): 681328. PMC. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Image sources:

Branches - The University of British Columbia

Fall -

Flowers, with seeds -

Habitat Map -

Seeds -

Spring -

Summer -

All other images were taken by Anne Zlatow or Ashlynn Torres

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