Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday's Trees- Yellowwood, Cladrastis kentukea

I first became acquainted with Yellowwood on our Master Gardener spring trip last year. This first group of photos were taken at the Virignia State Arboretum at Blandy.  If you have the opportunity to go, it is well worth the trip. 

 Perhaps I have seen this tree before, but not in bloom.  When it is in bloom, it is spectacular.

Yellowwood, Cladrastis kentukea (formerly Cladrastis lutea) is a native tree in the  Pea/Bean family.  The trunk branches form low on the tree, creating a multi-stemmed tree.

The  fragrant blooms are white clusters with yellow centers hanging on long stalks.  It is monoecious and blooms late spring to early summer.  According to Duke, it takes up to ten years for it to mature enough to bloom.  It does not bloom reliably every year, which is disappointing.

 The leaves are  compound, arranged alternately along the branch.   Each leaf has 5- 11 leaflets also arranged alternately.  This differs from Ash, which is arranged opposite.

 The bark is smooth and thin, gray in color.  According to UNCONN the bark is prone to sun scald so this tree is happier in a shady spot.

 A medium sized tree, hardy to zone 4.  Lives 50- 100 years.  Its name comes from the heartwood which is yellow.  Pruning should be done during the summer as it 'bleeds'.   It has narrow branching and is prone to splitting. 
These photos were taken on the study trip as well, but at the James Madison University Edith J. Carrier Arboretum.  This is a beautiful place and also well worth a visit.
 Fall colors are brilliant yellows.  The seed pods are long dark bean-type pods. 
The large leaflets are oblong to obovate, smooth, green on the top and paler on the underside.  Each leaflet can be up to 12" long.  
In addition to the above links, my references include VA Tech, Wildflower Center, and Missouri Botanical Garden.
While going through the study trip pictures I found more tree pictures that I want to share.  Next week's tree is Redbud. 

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.


  1. Those are some pretty flowers. It's a shame it doesn't bloom every yr. I love to learn about trees.

  2. This is one tree I wish I had the room to grow here in my garden. It's a beauty!

  3. i dont recall ever seeing this tree in bloom either, janet. it certainly is beautiful. i love your tree series...i alwys learn something.

  4. The bloom reminds me a bit of wistera?? Very pretty. Too bad there is not enough room in my yard to plant one of each tree you've featured Janet!
    Your Amaryllis header is very colorful. Which one is it?

  5. Those leaves are huge!

    I would love to send your mini-calendar out...did you e-mail me your mailing address?

  6. I'm trying to grow a Yellowwood from seed. lol I haven't seen one in bloom but I would love to. They are really beautiful.

  7. Such a pretty tree, a shame it flowers intermittently. In my mind that strikes it off the list of candidates for an averaged size garden, but if you have the space, it would be wonderfully graceful.

  8. What a beautiful tree and likes the shade too! I wish it was hardy here because I would try to find one at the garden center this spring.

  9. Once again, you've introduced me to a tree I'm not familiar with, Janet, though I would suspect we must have some in Illinois, too. The blossoms are so pretty; too bad they don't bloom every year.

  10. The blooms are beautiful, and those leaflets are sooo huge! I think it's very pleasant ot touch them, they look soft!

  11. Lola- I am enjoying learning about trees as I do these posts as well.

    tina- it is a nice tree --maybe you could find room?

    Daricia- thanks! Gald you like these postings.

    Kathleen- they do look a bit like wisteria. Oh, to be able to have one of each of these trees.

    Rosey- the leaves are big aren't they?

    Sweetbay- keep us posted on your seedling's growth. It would be nice to have one.

    Janet- I wonder how intermittently it blooms, perhaps as it ages it is more consistant.

    Jennifer- not many trees like shade and bloom, this is a nice one.

    Rose- I suspect you have it as well. I think the leaves being arranged in an alternate pattern is one way to know this one from others.

    Scott- it is indeed.

    Tatyana- they are soft, I fell in love with the blooms.


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