Common name: Chinese pistache tree
Botanical name: Pistacia chinensis
Size: The mature tree canopy can reach 35 to 50 feet high and 30 feet wide. Growth is typically slow the first two to three years of planting and then will grow two to three feet per year.
Flowers: Produces panicles of greenish flowers in April and May, but they are not showy. The female pistache produces inedible red berries that birds enjoy in the fall. Most home owners prefer male trees to avoid the potential mess of the berries. Male trees produce pollen but it has not been found to have allergic qualities in humans or animals.
Bloom time: Spring. Leaves turn vibrant crimson, orange and yellow in the fall.
Leaves: Deciduous compound pinnate (long stems with 11 to 20 alternating pointed leaflets)
Pests and disease problems: Virtually pest and disease free; however, soils that remain soggy will promote Texas root rot which will kill the tree.
General information: The Chinese pistache is a solid landscaping choice as a semi-fast growing medium to large size tree that is long lived and provides good shade, particularly for single story structures. It is virtually pest and disease free, and is drought and wind tolerant once established. It grows well in almost all soil types ranging from sandy loam to clay. Its roots grow deep and are non-aggressive, making it a safe choice near streets and sidewalks. Considered the ”ugly duckling” of young trees because of its spindly branches, the adult pistache has a well rounded canopy, provides wonderful shade and is attractive in both urban and rural landscapes. It is hardy in Zones 6 to 9. The Chinese pistache is the first shade tree to be designated with the prestigious Earth-Kind status by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and has been awarded with Texas Superstar status for shade trees.
Growing in North Texas: Prefers well drained soil and requires full sun. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommends buying a young tree in a five to ten-gallon container and planting in a full sun location in the fall. Dig the planting hole three times as wide as the root ball and as deep as the root ball. Do not amend the soil. Place the root ball and backfill only level to the top of the root ball soil. Lay two to three inches of mulch but do not have the mulch touch the trunk. Deeply water the entire area of the planting. Provide consistent, deep watering the first year of planting, but do not let the soil remain soggy as root rot can take place. Pistache trees do not tolerate soggy sills and roots left wet for extended periods – ensure the surface soil is dry down at least one inch soil depth between watering. Provide light, frequent fertilization in the spring.
Notes: The Chinese pistache is a close relative of the pistachio nut tree, but is hardier and produces no nuts.
Warnings: Depending on the desire for berries, make certain of the tree’s sex before buying. Young trees may need to be staked as they can be spindly in appearance until well established. Light pruning may be necessary to create an attractive, even canopy
National Arbor Day Foundation (US) (2016) https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide/TreeDetail.cfm?ItemID=1073
Texas Superstar (2015) http://texassuperstar.com/plants/pistache/pistachep.html
The Backyard Gardener, Jeff Schalau, County Director, Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources
Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County (June 2004) https://ag.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/archive/chinesepistache.html