Cladrastis kentukea (Dum. Cours.) Rudd
Kentucky Yellowwood, Yellowwood, Gopherwood, Virgilia
Fabaceae (Pea Family)
Synonym(s): Cladrastis lutea, Sophora kentukea
USDA Symbol: CLKE
Kentucky yellow-wood is a small, deciduous tree that rarely reaches 50 ft. in height. It is as wide as tall, with graceful, pendulous branches and bright-green, pinnately-compound leaves. Showy, pendent, foot-long spikes of cream-colored flowers appear in quantity only two or three times a decade. Fall color is a delicate orange or yellow. Bark is smooth and beech-like.
From the Image Gallery
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , CT , GA , IL , IN , KY , LA , MA , ME , MO , MS , NC , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN
Native Distribution: S. IN & s. MO, s. to NC & e. OK
Native Habitat: Mesic woods; ravines; river valleys; limestone slopes
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Rich, well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Yellowwood is rare throughout its range. It provides excellent shade but has such deep roots that grasses and shrubs grow easily beneath it. The deep roots, however, make transplanting difficult. The tree is slow-growing in its early years. Once established, this tree is drought-tolerant and nearly pest-free. Corrective pruning is often necessary to eliminate weak branch forks. Do not prune in the spring or immediately after transplanting. Very few disease and insect problems. Open-grown specimens are more vase-like in outline than the taller, narrower woodland specimens.
BenefitConspicuous Flowers: yes
PropagationDescription: Propagate by seed or root cuttings. Take cuttings in December and hold in nearly dry sand until transplanting to well-drained, fertile soil in mid-spring.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Like all legume seeds, these need scarification. After scarification, stratification may or may not be necessary.
Commercially Avail: yes
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
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Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Cladrastis kentukea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Cladrastis kentukea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Cladrastis kentukea
MetadataRecord Modified: 2013-09-07
Research By: TWC Staff