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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Thursday - June 25, 2009

From: Canton, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Identification of red leaf tree with wispy, feathery plumes on top
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I am looking for the name of a red leaf shrub/small tree that has feather like, wispy plumes which grow out of the top most branches. I do not have a photo. I live in Canton, MI.

ANSWER:

This sounds like smoketree, Cotinus sp.  There is a native species of smoketree, Cotinus obovatus (American smoketree) but its distribution doesn't include Michigan. However, according University of Connecticut Horticulture database, it is hardy to Zone 4 and most of Michigan is either Zone 4 or 5.  But, probably what you have seen in Michigan is Cotinus coggygria (European smoketree).  The distribution of the European smoketree in North America doesn't include Michigan either, but it can be found surrounding Michigan in Ontario, New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Here are some Michigan natives with attractive flowers and/or colorful autumn foliage that could serve as a substitute:

Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny serviceberry)

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud)

Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)

Cornus sericea (redosier dogwood)

Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington hawthorn)


Cotinus obovatus

Cotinus obovatus

Amelanchier laevis

Cercis canadensis

Cornus florida

Cornus florida

Cornus sericea

Cornus sericea

Crataegus phaenopyrum

 

 

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