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American Yellowwood

This is an adaptable native tree with no serious disease or pest problems and a lovely branching pattern.

The bark of the American Yellowwood.

If you live in zones 4 through 8 and are looking for a medium-sized ornamental shade tree, you may like to consider our native American yellowwood, Cladrastis kentukea*.

It is beautiful both as a specimen and in group plantings. Scott Zanon, in his book Landscaping with Trees in the Midwest, describes it as having gray bark like a beech and a rounded vase-shaped form, low branching and yellow fall color with a medium rate of growth.

Eventually it will reach 30-50 feet and as wide, so give it room to spread. The first leaves in the spring are yellowy-green and then turn bright green.

In June it produces long panicles of white flowers that are fragrant as well as lovely and that attract pollinators. Then in October it has light brown pods.

It is an adaptable tree in terms of soil but prefers good drainage and full sun. It has no serious diseases or insect problems, but because of its lovely branching pattern, it may occasionally sustain damage in high winds. Situate it in a sheltered spot if your area has severe windstorms.

‘Rosea’ is a cultivar with pink blooms, if you would prefer one with colored flowers.


* It is sometimes called Cladrastis kentukea lutea because lutea means yellow.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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