August 2021 - American Yellowwood

Common Name: American Yellowwood 

Botanical Name: Cladrastis kentukea 

Native Range: South, Midwest, Northeast 

Height: 30’-50’ 


Growth Rate: 9’-12’over an 8-10 year period. Will grow faster with adequate water and fertilizer. 

Sun: Full Sun to part shade 

Leaf Description: Alternate, odd-pinnately compound leaflets with the entire leaf 8-12 inches long. The stem is slender, smooth and bright reddish brown.

Fall Color: The leaf opens as bright yellow/green changing to bright green in the height of summer. Fall color ranges from yellow to golden yellow. 

Flower Timing: Late May to early June 

Flower Description: White fragrant flowers are 8 to 14 inches long, bees are attracted to the nectar. Tends to produce the greatest number of flowers in alternate years.

Fruit: The fruit is a flat legume containing hard coated seeds. 

Bark Description: Thin and gray to light brown retaining color as the tree ages. The bark is smooth and beech -like in texture and appearance. 

Wildlife Benefit: Pollinators such as bees are attracted to the flower nectar. 

Tolerates: Tolerates both high pH and acid soils as well as full sun. 

Possible Insects: None serious 

Possible Disease: Very few problems are found in this tree although verticillium wilt has been seen in one arboretum. 

Uses: Considered an excellent tree for its flowers and foliage. Yellowwood’s medium height and spreading patterns are considered assets as a shade tree for smaller landscapes. The tree’s foliage, bark and flowering pattern enhance its landscape presence. 

Where to be found on municipal property: Mature specimen in Marquand Park adjacent to the weeping hemlock, 2 newly planted specimens on Aiken Ave walking towards the Harrison Street Park entrance. 

Additional Facts:

  • The tree’s name is attributed to the yellow color of its freshly cut heartwood. 


  • Dirr, M. A.; Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. 2019
  • Feathers, S. “A Shade Tree with Benefits” Penn State Ext, 2014

Printable Info Sheet (PDF)

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