Yellowwood, or Cladrastis, is a genus of seven species of flowering plants in the family Fabaceae, six native to eastern Asia, and one to eastern North America. They are small to medium-sized deciduous trees typically growing 30 to 50 feet high, with a rounded canopy above a vase-shaped form. It is called Yellowwood because of the color of the freshly cut heartwood, which can also be used to produce a yellow dye.

The American yellowwood is Cladrastis kentukea. This under-utilised, deciduous tree makes a striking specimen with its vase-shaped, dense silhouette and graceful spreading crown and low branching. Smooth, grey to brown bark, and bright green, pinnately compound leaflets that turn a beautiful clear yellow in autumn are quite beautiful. But the real treat is the striking display of white, blossoms. And though Yellowwood may not flower for the first few years, once blooming begins, it is spectacular. The flowers are intensely fragrant, wisteria-like, and hang in large, graceful panicles, ten to fifteen inches long, and cover a mature tree in late spring. This bloom is similar to Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). Flowers give way to flat, brown seedpods, which mature in September-October.

Yellowwood is a superb choice for multiple uses and is tolerant of most soil conditions and urban pollution. It will thrive across most of the US, Lower Canada, the UK and temperate Australia and New Zealand.

As always, a tree this rare is not likely to be found in the large discount nurseries, but more likely found in the select plant nurseries or from mail-order tree nurseries.



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