The Yellowood Tree- Cladrastis kentuckea is an uncommon but spectacular tree. The bark resembles our native American Beech, smooth and grey with lichens growing on it. The leaves are similar to our native Ash trees but more delicate and more rounded. The flowers, WOW, the flowers are spectacular. The Yellowood Tree is in the pea family so, it’s great panicles of flowers are small, white and like pea flowers. The wonderfully fragrant flowers hang in great clusters and turn the tree nearly white in good years.
The Yellowood Tree lives in harsh places in the Eastern United States. It is most at home on bony, dry, limestone ridges in Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas. There are a few in other states as well but it is scarce even where it is most common. Since it is at home in such difficult places, it adapts well to city conditions. It thrives as a street tree and on traffic islands in parking lots. Places where many trees struggle to exist.
Yellowood is named for its stunningly bright yellow heartwood. The tree is uncommon in the lumber trade because the tree tend to grow in a low branching form more like an apple tree. Few trees grow with a straight trunk or to a diameter that would tempt a timber harvester. The wood is very hard and like most leguminous trees has an unpleasant smell when freshly cut. The wood was used as a dye stock in the early days of the country. This is not the tree that inspired the Yellowood brand seen advertised.
These trees will grow to 40 feet in height and have an irregularly rounded form. The fragrant flowers appear in late April or Early may in the south and a little later farther north. The flowers are attractive to bees and other pollinators.
The tree is hardy in zones 4 to 8, Minnesota to Alabama.
The Yellowood Tree should be planted in more yards and city plantings for its beauty and its preservation as a native resource.
2 gallon trees are 2′ to 4′ tall