Hovenia dulcis

Common Name Japanese Raisin Tree
Family Rhamnaceae
Synonyms H. acerba. H. inequalis.
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Plains and mountains to 2000 metres in W. China[109]. Secondary forest[266].
Range E. Asia - China to the Himalayas.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun


Physical Characteristics

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Hovenia dulcis is a deciduous Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 7 m (23ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in July, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

USDA hardiness zone : 5-9

Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

Hovenia dulcis Japanese Raisin Tree

Hovenia dulcis Japanese Raisin Tree


Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses: Sweetener.

Fruit - raw or cooked[2, 11, 158]. They can be dried when they have the sweet flavour and texture of raisins and can be used similarly[183]. The fruit is sweet and fragrant[105, 147] with a pear-like flavour[218]. Dry and sub-acid[61]. It is not a true fruit but a swollen receptacle[200]. The fruit is up to 3cm long[2], it contains 11.4% glucose, 4.7% fructose and 12.6% sucrose[218]. A sweet extract of the seed, boughs and young leaves is used as a substitute for honey[183]. The seed contains 15% protein and 7.8% fat[218].

Medicinal Uses

Antispasmodic;  Febrifuge;  Laxative.

Antispasmodic, febrifuge, laxative[147, 178]. The fruit is antispasmodic, febrifuge, laxative and diuretic[218]. The seeds are diuretic and are used in the treatment of alcohol overdose[218]. The seeds are used to relieve intoxication due to wine[240]. The stem bark is used in the treatment of rectal diseases[218].

Other Uses


The wood is hard and fine grained. It is good for making furniture[266].

Cultivation details

Grows well in a fertile sandy loam in a sunny position[200]. Although the dormant plant is hardy to at least -15°c in Britain, it really prefers a continental climate to fully ripen its wood, it is then hardy to about -25°c[200]. The shoot tips are sometimes damaged by winter frosts in Britain[1] and the young growth in spring can also be damaged by late frosts[K]. The Japanese raisin tree is said to grow well in Cornwall[59], though our experience of this plant so far (1995) is that it is very difficult to establish. Perhaps older plants are as hardy as the reports above suggest, but younger plants are quite tender and often die in their first few winters outdoors[K]. The Japanese raisin tree is cultivated for its edible fruit in Japan. The small white flowers are scented and are produced in terminal cymes[245].


Seed - germinates freely if sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[200]. Stored seed should be scarified and sown in early spring[113], it may not germinate for a year. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when large enough to handle and grow on for at least their first winter in a greenhouse. Plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts and give some winter protection for their first couple of years outdoors. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame[200]. Cuttings of mature wood, late autumn in a frame


Additional information for Japanese Raisin Tree