The type species, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, can reach 45 m (148 ft) in height, and is one of the largest hardwoods in Asia. The other species, Cercidiphyllum magnificum, is much smaller, rarely reaching over 10 m (33 ft) in height. Cercidiphyllum produces spurs along its twigs. These are short stems with closely spaced leaves. The foliage is dimorphic. According to a recent description “short shoots bear broadly cordate or reniform, palmately veined leaves with crenate margins; long shoots bear elliptic to broadly ovate leaves with entire or finely serrate margins.” Leaf size varies from 3–8 cm long and 3-5.5 cm broad. The genus is dioecious, having separate male and female trees. The small inconspicuous flowers are produced in early spring and wind-pollinated; the fruit is a cluster of 2-4 small pods, each pod 1–2 cm long with numerous small, flattened and winged seeds. The fruits mature in autumn and release their seeds in autumn through winter. The leaves have a strong, sweet aroma in the Fall.
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