Shrub of the Week: Japanese Kerria

Published on

I checked out the jumbled, zigzagging  branches of my Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica) planting the other day, and to my surprise a few random blooms of bright yellow had emerged. Kerria puts its best bloom show forward in late April in northeast Ohio, just after the forsythia fades. But, July, who knew? Not me. I loved this touch of spring, and even more than the opened blossom, the random flower buds were a reminder that kerria is in the Rosaceae; the flower buds certainly remind us of miniature roses.


Japanese kerria bloom in the summer
Kerria blooming in July in the ChatScape


Kerria flower buds look like miniature roses
Kerria flower buds resemble miniature roses


  So, that takes care of two seasons. Then there is fall with pretty good fall foliage, mixing yellows with soft browns, and with leaf drop revealing then the green stems that are a great winter feature.


Fall color and green stems of kerria
Fall foliage color and green stems of kerria


  Kerria is named for William Kerr, who introduced the ‘Plenifora’ double-flowered kerria, quite popular, I noticed, when visiting the Beijing Botanic Garden this spring. Like forsythia, named for William Forsyth, giving credence to those pronouncing forsythia as “for-sigh-thee-uh”, I suppose kerria, which I have always pronounced “care –ee- uh”, might just as well be “cur-ee-uh”.


Kerria 'Pleniflora'
Kerria 'Pleniflora' in the Beijiing Botanic Garden


  Final Note: So, a small sprawling shrub that can fill up an area over time. Bright yellow flowers. Attractive toothed leaves. Green stems. Fruits? Well, here is Yamabuki Otome’s poem that I extracted from the spidery strands of the world wide web:


  “Flowers bloom sevenfold and eightfold, but the kerria laments, for not a single fruit does it bear.”     


 Not quite, though fruits and seeds are not common. Suckering and those occasional fruits and seeds make kerria an invasive issue in some areas.