T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Toona sinensis (Toon tree)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Meliaceae
Genus: Toona
Species: T. sinensis
Binomial name: Toona sinensis
Synonyms: Ailanthus flavescens, Ailanthus mairei, Cedrela longiflora var. kumaona, Cedrela serrata var. puberula, Cedrela sinensis.
Common names: Chinese toon, Red toon, Chinese mahogany

Toona sinensis is a deciduous tree native to eastern and south-eastern Asia and is cultivated in many parts of the world. It is a cold-tolerant species and can survive winter temperatures down to -20C. It can grow up to 25 metres tall and have a trunk up to 70 cm diameter. It is more commonly seen growing as a clump due to its ability to produce numerous suckers. The bark is brown, smooth on young trees, becoming scaly to shaggy on old trees.

The young leaves that emerge in the spring are coloured a bright pink and are between 30cm and 60cm long, with between 16 to 24 leaflets growing alternate to almost opposite, along a red stalk. The pink colour gradually changes to a pale yellow before turning green. During autumn the leaves turn an orange-yellow before falling.
Small pendulous flowers are produced in summer in panicles 30–50 cm long on the end of the branches; each flower is small, 4–5 mm diameter, with five white or pale pink petals. The fruit is a 2–3.5 cm long capsule which when mature splits open to release several winged seeds.

Toona sinensis has an invasive potential because of its wind-borne seeds and the production of clones through its prolific root suckering. Vigorous root sprouts and seedlings are produced up to 15 m from the original tree and are difficult to manage. This spreading trait can pose problems if left unchecked and can causing damage to paving and structures and it will interfere with neighbouring plants. Regular maintenance and control are important.

Photographed New Plymouth October.