Fragrant blooms of a yellowwood tree

Native Plants: Cladrastis kentukea – Kentucky Yellowwood

My little town has an unusual collection of street trees.  On my block alone there are red maples, dogwoods, redbuds, oaks, and two native beauties – Cladrastis kentukea all planted in the hell strips.  1′ to 2′ abundant clusters of fragrant white blooms on two side by side trees made me screech the tires on the way home the other day.  This isn’t a common tree around here and it is a stunner in every way.  I have to remember to us this beauty in more landscape designs!

Fragrant blooms of a yellowwood tree

Kentucky Yellowwood

Cladrastis kentukea has a loose informal shape suitable to casual settings or as a feature tree in a large landscape.  Its native range is further south – hence the name.  Yellowwood is hardy from zones 4-8, with brilliant yellow fall foliage. It is a large shade tree that can reach 30-50 feet, likes full sun, and has a long taproot so make sure it’s planted where it can stay.

8 thoughts on “Native Plants: Cladrastis kentukea – Kentucky Yellowwood

  1. I’m so glad that my plant genius neighbor made me buy one of these last year at the NARGS plant sale at Buck Garden. I’d never heard of it but quickly fell in love with my gangly sapling.

  2. Brian–this is a tree that I sometimes forget about and then it blooms somewhere and I fall in live with it all over again. Enjoy yours!

  3. A fabulous tree that is way under utilized. There are so many nice trees that could fill our gardens and landscapes, but instead we are pushed to plant 3 more Autumn Blaze maples by every landscaper and garden center.

  4. I have no idea where you can buy it locally to you, but a simple Google search will reveal on-line sources.

  5. Hi Susan. It was great to meet you at Alt. Summit today. Thank you for talking with me.

    As I was walking back to my hotel today, I passed by a tree with white flowers that were very fragrant. I’m pretty sure it was this tree pictured. I will double check tomorrow. It smelled so nice!

  6. Melissa-it was lovely meeting you too! You probably got a whiff of a Japanese Lilac tree which have big white blooms that are marvelously fragrant and blooming right now. Enjoy NYC!

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