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Do You Know What Plant This Is?
for June 1 - 7, 2010

cotinus obovatus
This is American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus).

American smoketree is a deciduous, upright, small tree in the Sumac Family (Anacardiaceae) that typically grows 20-30' tall with an open, rounded crown. It is native to the southeastern United States, and is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 8. It bears huge up to 12 inches across pale green clusters of flower heads that open with pink, silken hairs (shown here), forming the appearance of "smoke" in late spring. Its bark is an attractive gray-brown and is scaly when mature. An orange or yellow dye can be obtained from the wood, which was extensively used in America at the time of the Civil War, but is little used commercially today. The young leaves also have a pleasantly aromatic fragrance when bruised or crushed. The plant is grown for its flower heads and excellent fall foliage (see Picture of the Week November 7, 2006), which turns a variety of colors including yellow, red, orange and reddish purple, and produces some of the best fall color of any native American tree or shrub, but is still uncommon in U.S. landscapes. You can see American smoketree in the Bonsai Museum or the Fern Valley Native Plant Collection (pictured in the Bonsai Museum courtyard).

[Click on the picture to see a larger image].
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Last Updated   June 9, 2010 10:12 AM

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