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Botanical Name: Cladrastis kentukea

Common Name: American Yellowwood
Origin: Southeastern USA
Location: KN


Notable Feature: As one of our rarest native trees, yellowwood puts on the most spectacular flowering display of any tree species. 

Habit: A standout in the winter landscape with its smooth, beech-like, gray trunk, its low-branching habit, and its broad crown of reddish brown, zigzagging branches.  Mature size is around 40 feet high and about as wide.  Deciduous.

Flower: Pendulous, foot-long, wisteria-like clusters of fragrant, white flowers appear in late spring and early summer, often in alternate years.  Flowers are perfect (bisexual) and bees frequent the flowers for nectar.

Fruit: Pea-like seed pods, 2 ½ to 4” long, ripen in the fall and persist into winter.  Pods contain 4 to 6, flat, brown seeds.

Foliage: Alternate, odd-pinnately compound leaves, 8 to 10” long.  Each leaf contains seven leaflets that turn a clear yellow, occasionally a golden orange, before dropping in autumn.

Interesting Fact: The common name is derived from the yellow color of its heartwood, observed after it has been freshly cut.  The wood is weak, and therefore the tree should be planted in a spot sheltered from strong winds.   The genus, Cladrastis, derives from the Greek meaning brittle wood.

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