Maakia amurensis, common names Amur maackia and Asiatic yellow wood, is a deciduous tree and one of 16 species in the genus Maackia. It is a member of the Fabaceae family and has the characteristic flower shape of the rest of the pea family. It is quite hardy and very slow growing but once mature will form a symmetrical canopy with arching, spreading branches which give great shade in the summer.
In the spring the new leaves appear silver as they are covered with fine hairs. The leaves darken to olive-green. It is deciduous but winter interest is provided by the peeling, coppery-brown bark.
In mid-summer, upright clusters of fragrant white flowers attract bees and other pollinating insects.
Maackia amurensis is named after Richard Karlovich Maack, a nineteenth century Siberian naturalist and explorer. He discovered it growing by the Amur River near the border between Siberia and China (amurensis means ‘of the Amur region’). It is also native to Mongolia, Korea and Japan.
Asiatic yellow wood will reach (very slowly) between 4.6 and 15 metres tall. It can be used as a specimen plant in a lawn or to give shade in sunny positions. It adapts to most soil types and although drought tolerant once established, will benefit from regular watering during dry spells. It will not tolerate poorly drained soils or situations near to the sea.
The wood is used to make handles for tools and in construction. The bark is said to have the most medicinal properties and is used in other cultures as an antioxidant, antitumour and antinflammatory. A report by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) states that it has found that a protein from the seeds of Amur maackia, which have been used for centuries in traditional medicines, may be able to halt the spread of melanoma, a form of skin cancer. References to this tree being used medicinally can be found in ancient Chinese documents that date back more than 400 years.
Propagate by seed or from softwood cuttings.