Native to China, Korea, and Japan. Common name comes from inner bark, used for making paper and Polynesian tapa cloth. Quite valuable as a shade tree where soil and climate limit choices. Tolerates heat, drought, strong winds, city pollution, and stony, sterile, or alkaline soils.
Moderate to fast growth to 50 ft., with dense, broad crown reaching 40 ft. across; often considerably smaller and more shrublike in gardens. Suckering, weedy habit can be problem in rainy climates and highly cultivated gardens. Good in rough bank plantings. Smooth gray bark can become ridged and furrowed with age, creating handsome old specimens. Heart-shaped, sometimes lobed, 4- to 8-in. leaves are green and rough textured on the upper surface, gray and velvety underneath; edges are toothed. Blooms in spring. Flowers on male trees are catkins; on female trees, rounded flower heads are followed by red fruit if a male tree is growing nearby.