En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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


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.


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



More Trees Questions

Trees for clay soil from Charlotte TX
August 25, 2013 - We have an area in our yard that even Esperanzas won't grow. It is near another that does great. Six Esperanzas are planted in a north/south row about with 10' between plants, the southern most plan...
view the full question and answer

Killing regrowing shoots of a downed hackberry tree
June 28, 2013 - Hackberry plants won't die. You and others have suggested to cut the suckers or saplings to get rid of them. Over the years I have continued to cut the same saplings and the only thing I have now ar...
view the full question and answer

Tree to plant on rocky soil in San Antonio
March 10, 2012 - I want to plant a tree in a particular spot in the yard but after digging down 10 inches I hit solid rock. I filled the hole with water and it took hours for it to go down. It is one of the higher e...
view the full question and answer

Low Water Use Plants for a Pond Island
November 06, 2014 - We have a medium sized pond/tank with a small island covered in black willows. The pond loses a lot of water and we were told it was partially due to the willows. We want to remove them and replace ...
view the full question and answer

Are American sycamore or hybrid poplar trees toxic to dogs in San Antonio?
August 26, 2009 - We anticipate planting an American Sycamore or a Hybrid Poplar tree in our back yard but we have several small dogs and are concerned that they may eat some of the leaves. Do either of these trees po...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center