Cladrastis kentukea (American Yellow-Wood)

Michael's Opinion

An uncommon Carolinian tree that produces a crown almost as broad as it is tall. C. kentukea has dull lime green, compound leaves and white panicles that droop over the foliage in late spring. It is often multi-stemmed and low branched and often succumbs to storm damage in Southern Ontario, nonetheless, it is worth using in the landscape for when in flower it is beyond compare. It is supposedly quite hardy and has been grown successfully in London, Ontario although I am not sure about points further north.

Botanical Information

FamilyFabaceae (Papilionaceae)
SynonymsCladrastis lutea
TypeTree (deciduous)
OriginUnited States


USDA Hardiness Zone3
USDA Hardiness Ref.
Canadian Hardiness Zone1
Canada Hardiness Ref.
RHS Hardiness ZoneH7
RHS Hardiness Ref.
Temperature (°C)-46 - (-40)
Temperature (°F)-50 - (-40)
Height15 m
Spread10-15 m
Flowering PeriodMay, June, July

Description and Growing Information

General DescriptionIt was once called C. lutea, but as plant name rules apply it took its earlier recorded name of C. kentukea in 1971, the name C. kentukea was given to the plant in 1811. The heartwood is light yellow, lutea in latin meaning yellow. The wood has be
ID CharacteristicA low broad canopied tree with dull lime green compound leaves and large white panicles of bloom.
ShapeBroad rounded crown.
LandscapeExcellent as a single specimen tree on a lawn or used as for group plantings in larger gardens.
PropagationThe seed coat is tough and needs treatment with sulphuric acid at which point seed should be stratified at 5C in moist peat moss for three months.
CultivationEasily cultivated on light, well draining, rich soils, and is purported to be quite hardy.
PestsFew pests and diseases that are common to Ontario. The main problem with the tree is weak branch crotches and the subsequent damage of the limbs.
Notable SpecimensRoyal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, Ontario, Canada.
HabitatThe Southern United States, endangered in the wild.
Bark DescriptionSimilar to Beech bark, smooth and light grey.
Bud DescriptionSomewhat inconspicuous, light brown.
Leaf DescriptionAlternate, odd pinnately compound with 7-9 leaflets being dull lime green.
Flower DescriptionOften borne in 20-30 cm racemes, white pea like individual blooms, flowering in May.
Fruit DescriptionPods in evidence in October, flat, light brown to about 6 cm in length and 1.5 cm in width.
Colour DescriptionLight yellow autumn colour.
Texture DescriptionA subtle texture especially when in leaf.