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American Yellowwood

Scientific Name

Cladrastis kentukea


Southeastern and lower Midwestern United States.  No real large concentrations of the tree.  Found in spotty locations.


Generally found in woodlands, river valleys and limestone slopes. Thrives best in full sun to partial shaded areas with moist but well-drained soils.

Growth Nature

Grows to a height of 30  - 50 ft. with an equal spread.  Tree takes on a rounded, vase shape at maturity.  Growth rate is average, depending on how much sun the plant receives.  Has compound leaves about 12 inches long, with several 4 inch long leaflets.  Tolerant of a variety of soils from sand, loam, clay, acidic and on occasion wet soils.      

Points of Interest

  • Has showy, white flowers that resemble wisteria blooms.  Flowers are highly fragrant and the display is highly prized by gardeners during the summer bloom.

  • Flowers do not appear until the plant is at least 10 years old and vary in terms of number of blooms on 2 to 5 year cycles.

  • A high number of bees are attracted to the flowers.

  • The name “yellowwood” comes from the color of the heartwood of the tree.  This yellow wood has been used to make dyes in the past.

  • Has shallow roots.  Not recommended in the normal lawn setting.

  • Shallow roots allow it to tolerate wet soils. Deeper roots allow it to deal with droughts once the plant is well established.