Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia
Cotinus obovatus Raf.
American smoke tree, Smoke tree, Texas smoke tree, Chittamwood
Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)
American smoketree is an upright, small tree
or multi-trunked shrub,
growing 15-30 ft. tall. Has a short trunk, open crown of spreading branches, resinous sap
with a strong odor, and deep orange-yellow heartwood. Six to ten inch flower panicles develop long, red or purple, hairlike petioles that, in the crowded flower clusters, create a smoky appearance. (The flower itself is small and not showy.) Berries occur infrequently on pinkish stems; these also have a smoke-like look. Spring leaves are silky pink, becoming bluish to dark green. Fall leaves are magnificently colorful. A gnarled limb structure and the dark, flaking bark
are other attributes. The masses of smoke-like fruit
clusters with hairy stalks of sterile flowers give the species its common name.
to rocky, usually mountain soils from Kentucky, Tennessee, and northern Alabama west to Oklahoma, with disjunct populations in a few counties of central Texas, Cotinus obovatus
is an outstanding small, ornamental tree. Its bark
is decorative, its leaves are soothing blue-green in spring and summer and flaming oranges and reds in fall, and its flowers form ethereal clouds of pink and purple in spring. The floral panicles wave in the breeze, giving the illusion of clouds of smoke. It is drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, well-adapted to the stony soils of its native
habitat, and should not be over-watered or over-fertilized.
Image Gallery: 35 photo(s) available
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Pink , Yellow , Purple
Bloom Time: Apr , May
Bloom Notes: Flowers change from yellow to pink or purple as they age.
AL , AR , GA , KY , MO , OK , TN , TX Native Distribution:
Ozark Mts. of AR & adjacent MO & OK; also KY & TN, s. to AL & GA; Edwards Plateau of TX Native Habitat:
Hillsides; limestone outcrops; rocky woods USDA Native Status: L48(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2)
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky, well-drained, limestone soils, whether sand, loam, or clay.
Conditions Comments: Once it is established within its range, it thrives on tough conditions and neglect and should not be over-watered. Rich soil and too much water may create a weak plant. It likes rocky north- or east-facing slopes, or plant on protected side of Ashe Juniper (Juniperus ashei).
A small tree
valued for its trunk and branches, cloud-like spring blooms, and standout fall foliage. Use Wildlife:
Browsed by wildlife. Use Other:
The wood was once used for making a yellow dye and for fence posts and tool handles Conspicuous Flowers: