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Cladrastis kentukea

Kentucky yellowwood add to wishlist

Plant types and subtypes: Trees & Shrubs, Trees, Deciduous

Light Requirements: sun, part-sun

Water Use: low, medium

Soil Moisture: moist

Soil Description: acid, neutral, average, loam, clay, gravel/rock

Height: 30'-50'

Bloom Time: April, May, June

Bloom Color: white

Leaf Color: green

Hardiness Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8

Additional Tags: fall interest, fragrant flowers, shade tree, showy fruit

Cladrastis kentukea (Kentucky yellowwood)
  • Cladrastis kentukea (Kentucky yellowwood)
  • Cladrastis kentukea (Kentucky yellowwood)
  • Flowers of Cladrastis kentukea (Kentucky yellowwood)
  • Flowers of Cladrastis kentukea (Kentucky yellowwood)

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Description

Cladrastis kentukea

Also known as:

Kentucky yellowwood

,

gopherwood

,

yellowwood

,

American yellowwood

,

virgilia

Scientific Synonyms:

Cladrastis lutea, Sophora kentukea

Description

Though rare even within its native range, Cladrastis kentukea should be considered one of the most spectacular flowering trees of the eastern US. Springtime will bring about an abundance of large pendulous panicles of intensely fragrant white flowers, very similar in appearance to those of wisteria. These give way to 4" long flattened seed pods that emerge green, turning to dark brown by fall. It is a medium-sized tree with a mature height of 40', occasionally 50' but rarely more. It has a singular trunk and a broad, symmetrical, well-rounded crown. The leaves are pinnately compound, made up of 7 to 9 eliptical leaflets. The foliage is bright green, sometimes tinged with blue, and can produce very good fall colors in shades of yellow, gold and orange.

Cultivation

Kentucky yellowwood is easy to grow and adaptable to most well-drained moist soils. It produces deep roots, and once established, trees will be resistant to dry summer conditions. Its moderate size makes it well suited for use as a shade tree in small yards, residential lawns, and for group plantings. Should pruning of the lower limbs be required, this should be done during the summer months only, to avoid excessive bleeding. Young trees will take up to 10 years to begin producing flowers, and will thereafter produce bumper crops every 2 to 3 years.

Propagation

Propagate from seed. Stored seeds will require a period of cold stratification to break dormancy, and like with other legumes, will benefit from scarification and/or a good overnight soak before sowing. Though slow growing at first, trees are quick to develop a deep root system, making them difficult to transplant. Saplings should be placed in a permanent location as soon as possible.

Additional Notes

Because of the tree's deep roots, flower beds can be safely cultivated near the base of the trunk. The common name "yellowwod" is a reference to the distinctively yellow color of its heartwood.

Native Range & Classification

Recorded County Distribution: USDA data

Native Range:
AL, AR, CT, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, ME, MO, MS, NC, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN

USDA Endangered Status:

  • Endangered: IL
  • Threatened: IN

Classification

Kingdom Plantae Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
Subclass Rosidae
Order Fabales
Family Fabaceae Pea family
Genus Cladrastis yellowwood
Species Cladrastis kentukea Kentucky yellowwood