Xanthoceras sorbifolium

Common name: Yellowhorn Family: Sapindaceae
Author: Bunge. Botanical references: 11, 200
Known Hazards: None known
Range: E. Asia – N. China.
Habitat: Thickets in drier areas, usually on shaded slopes.
Edibility Rating (1-5): 3 Medicinal Rating (1-5): 0
Epithets: From a Dictionary of Botanical Epithets
bifolium = 2 leaved;
Systematics: From a UDSA Plants Database
Order: Sapindales. Soapberry family

Physical Characteristics

A decidious shrub growing to 6m by 2.5m at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 6 and is frost tender. It is in flower from May to June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs). We rate it 3/5 for edibility and 0/5 for medicinal use.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

Habitats and Possible Locations

Woodland, Sunny Edge, Dappled Shade.

Edible Uses

Flowers; Leaves; Seed.

Flowers – cooked

2, 105, 183. They are usually boiled179. Leaves – cooked2, 105, 183. They are usually boiled179. Seed – cooked2, 105, 177. The seed is about the size of a pea, it is quite sweet183, with a taste like a sweet chestnut178. The seed is husked and then ground into a powder and boiled179.

Medicinal Uses

None known

Other Uses

None known

Cultivation details

Prefers a good loamy soil1, but succeeds in most well-drained fertile soils in a sunny position184, 200. Prefers a warm dry situation184. Requires protection from cold winds202. Dormant plants are hardy to about -20°c184. They grow best in areas with warm summers and dry springs without late frosts184, the young growth can be damaged by late spring frosts1, 11. They require summer heat in order to fully ripen their wood and to stimulate the production of flower buds11, 200. They are subject to attacks by ‘coral spot’ fungus, particularly if the wood is not fully ripened and is then damaged by winter cold11. Flowers are produced on the previous year’s wood202. Plants are usually slow to become established202.


Seed – 3 months cool stratification improves germination rates113 so the seed is probably best sown in a cold frame in the autumnK. Another report says that the seed can be sown in a warm greenhouse in February or March78, probably after stratificationK. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots. Grow the on in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse for their first winter then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Consider giving them some protection from winter cold for their first winter or two outdoors. Root cuttings, 3cm long planted horizontally in pots in a frame in December or January. Good percentage78. Division of suckers in the dormant season200. They can be planted out straight into their permanent positions.