American Smoke Tree (Cotinus obovatus)

The American smoketree turns shades of yellow, orange, red, and red-purple in the fall. A single tree may display all of these colors at once. In the summer, the tree's oval-shaped leaves are blue-green. The flowers on this tree are hard to notice because they are covered in billowy hairs. These hairs give the tree an interesting effect, especially when they turn a smoky purple-pink in the summer, which is where the tree gets its common name.

Family: Anacardiaceae (Cashew)

Characteristics: The 1 ½-inch to 3 ½-inch-long leaves are oval-shaped and blue-green. In the fall, leaves turn to a rich yellow, orange, red, or red-purple. Flowers are small and not showy. From these flower clusters grow showy long hairs. These hairs turn purple-pink in the summer, giving the tree a smoky look. Bark is gray-black and develops a fish-scale texture with age. This tree has an oval-rounded shape with a dense crown and appears more often as a large shrub than a tree. It grows 20-30 feet high and wide.

Foliage: Deciduous (leaves lost seasonally)

Geographic Origin: Southern United States (non-native)

Cultivation Notes: Requires medium maintenance. Does best in full sun, though can also tolerate part-shade. Prefers alkaline, moist, and well-drained soil, though is tolerant to a wide range of soil conditions.

Number on Campus: 1

Sources: Dirr, Morton Arboretum, Missouri Botanical Garden