Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!


Plant Database

Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

Enter a Plant Name:
Or choose a plant family:
Cladrastis kentukea (Kentucky yellowwood)
Bloodworth, Stefan

Cladrastis kentukea

Cladrastis kentukea (Dum. Cours.) Rudd

Kentucky Yellowwood, Yellowwood, Gopherwood, Virgilia

Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Synonym(s): Cladrastis lutea, Sophora kentukea


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (I)

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

9 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf: Green
Size Class: 36-72 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun


USA: 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 Conditions

Water 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.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: 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 Directory

According 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


Bibref 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.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Cladrastis kentukea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Cladrastis kentukea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Cladrastis kentukea


Record Modified: 2013-09-07
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back