604. Japanese Kerria

This stop is excerpted from Planting Edo, a field guide created in partnership with the Harvard Art Museums. The guide pairs Arboretum specimens with paintings from the Museums' exhibition Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection.

Japanese Kerria

Kerria japonica

Accession 237 - 2008*B

Kerria japonica, a member of the rose family (Rosaceae), is a species native to East Asia and can be seen in the top right-hand corner of this folding screen of the Flowers of the Four Seasons, produced by the Sōtatsu School. Since at least the 10th century, the spring-flowering shrub has been paired in classical Japanese poetry with the calls of lovelorn frogs searching for mates in mountain streams overhung with kerria flowers. Its common name in English derives from William Kerr, a Scottish plant hunter who collected it in China in 1805.


Japanese kerria bears sunny, yellow flowers beginning in spring and may bloom intermittently throughout the summer. Its single, rose-like flowers are typically 1 to 2 inches in diameter and are supported by slender bright green branches, which keep their color even through the winter months. Its long, narrow leaves turn yellow in the fall. They grow best in shady spots, and full-grown plants typically reach a height of 4 to 8 feet.

Sōtatsu School, I’nen Seal, Flowers of the Four Seasons (detail), Japanese, Edo period, 17th century. Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink and color on paper. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg, 2017.225. © President and Fellows of Harvard College.