American Yellowwood

Yellowwood flowers drooping


The yellowwood is recognized as having one of the best flowering displays of flowering trees with its white and pink drooping flowers. Although rare in the wild, the yellowwood is hardy and can easily be an urban ornamental tree as it tolerates a wide range of acidic and slightly alkaline soils.

More detail: American Yellowwood’s Tree of the Month.

Common Name


Latin Name

Cladrastis kentukea


Alternate, pinnately compound, 5 to 9 leaflets (usually 7), each leaflet obovate to oblong-obovate, green upper surface, paler below


Pea-like, perfect, creamy to white, somewhat fragrant, borne in long hanging clusters


Flat brown pod, 2 to 4 inches long, 1/2 inch wide, containing small, brown, hard-coated seeds, ripening in early fall


Moderately stout, smooth, shiny, red-brown, zig-zag, leaf scar nearly encircling the bud; bud is a broad cone, with fuzzy brown hairs


Very smooth, often wrinkled, thin, gray


Wide spreading crown, typically low branching


Commonly reaches 50 feet in height

Native Range

Native to the southeastern United States, with a restricted range from western North Carolina west to eastern Oklahoma, and from southern Missouri and Indiana south to central Alabama


Medium-sized deciduous tree

Seasonal Colors

Leaves turn a unique soft yellow-green color in fall


Does best in moist neutral soils with good drainage, but adapts to varying levels of acidity


Tolerates partial shade but grows the best in sun

Similar Species

Amur corktree, Japanese pagoda tree

Pests and Diseases

There are no major pests or diseases for the yellowwood except for the occasional verticillium wilt.

Rebate Eligibility


Of Note

The name yellowwood derives from its yellow heartwood, used in small amounts for specialist furniture, gunstocks and decorative woodturning.

Kentucky yellowwood is recommended as one of the best medium-sized trees for cultivation as an ornamental plant in gardens.

Photo Credits

Derek Ramsey