Tree of the Month | Cassia Leptophylla, the ‘Gold Medallion’ Tree

Brazilian native tree is a member of the Fabaceae family
Article and photos by Emina Darakjy
Published on Jul 30, 2022

Each month, Pasadena Beautiful Tree Program Chair Emina Darakjy presents a ‘tree of the month’ in order to educate Pasadenans about the trees around them. Many people drive by trees they admire, but have no idea what they are called, or what their growing habits are. Pasadena Beautiful was founded in 1960 by a group of volunteers who saw a need to beautify their city and enhance its tree canopy.

The Gold Medallion tree is native to the tropical forests of Southern Brazil.This is a small to medium size evergreen tree that can become deciduous when temperatures are in the 25-30°F range.

The Gold Medallion—which was introduced to the region by the Los Angeles County Arboretum in 1958—can reach a height of 20 to 30 feet, with an open crown and a 25-30 feet-wide spreading canopy.  Its branches are droopy, with dense, dark green foliage consisting of pinnately divided leaves with 1-2” long leaflets, making it a good shade tree.

In the summer, this gorgeous-looking tree, with its gray-brown furrowed trunk, is covered with clusters of very large flowers, each resembling a bouquet that tends to hang on the tree for a long time.  The flowers are bright yellow, showy and fragrant.  The bees and butterflies love them.

In the fall after the tree is finished flowering, long, thin bean-like seed pods up to 2 feet long appear, and dangle from its branches.  The pods are green at first, before turning brown and woody later.  The seeds are non-edible.

The tree does not require much maintenance, but would benefit from a good pruning when young to help it develop a strong trunk and branches and as well as for sidewalk clearance especially when planted as a street tree. 

The fast-growing tree is also considered drought-tolerant. It does better in the sun and in well-drained soil.

At present, there are no known serious diseases affecting this tree, and damage to sidewalks from this tree’s roots is very low.

This tree is a good candidate for residential landscaping, as a street tree, or in a park. I am noticing this tree everywhere I go now, and there is a good reason for that, as this spectacular-looking tree brings a smile to everyone’s face, and practically shouts out, “Hello, Sunshine!”

Emina Darakjy is a past president of Pasadena Beautiful and its present tree program chair. Darakjy has always had a passion for trees and is involved with several other tree organizations such as California Re-Leaf, the Arbor Day Foundation, and American Forests.  She is a past president of Street Tree Seminar Inc. and the present president of the California Urban Forests Council.

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