Chinese Pistache: A Great Tree for Alabama Landscapes

Donít let the name of Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) fool you. This beautiful medium-sized tree offers some of the best fall color the South has to offer. It is great for the home landscape or the urban environment.

The flowers of Chinese pistache are not very conspicuous, but the 6-inch-long clusters of purple-red fruit can be very attractive. It has a medium texture with its compound leaves, which are usually a rich green color. (Click graphic for larger format.)

The reason you buy this tree is for its extreme toughness in a wide range of soils and its screaming reddish orange to yellow fall color. You would like to treat all your trees with kindness and provide a good root zone environment for them, but that is not always possible. Chinese pistache will tolerate compacted dry soils after establishment and continue to flourish.

It is an ugly ducking in the nursery stage with a crooked trunk and unruly branches. This teenage gangliness only lasts three to five years before it begins to mature into an arching tree with an oval-rounded crown reaching 30 to 50 feet tall. It averages about 3 feet of growth a year or more if supplied with irrigation and fertilizer.

Ignore the name and put this tree in your garden. If you invest in Chinese pistache, you will be planting for the distant future and look forward to enjoying many years of dazzling fall color.

Source: Ken Tilt, Extension Horticulturist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, (334) 844-5484