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Cladrastis lutea (Michx.) K. Koch

Yellow Wood

Modern name

Cladrastis kentukea (Dum.Cours.) Rudd


Virgilia lutea Michx.; C. tinctoria Raf.

A tree occasionally 50 to 60 ft high, when drawn up by other trees, but usually 40 ft or less in the open, with a wide-spreading, rounded head of branches; trunk and limbs pale grey and glabrous; branchlets not downy. Leaves 8 to 12 in. long, pinnate, composed of usually seven or nine (sometimes five or eleven) leaflets, the base of their common stalk swollen and enclosing the bud; leaflets alternate, nearly or quite glabrous when mature, broadly oval, ovate or obovate, the terminal one the largest, and up to 412 in. long and 234 in. wide; basal pair of leaflets down to 112 in. long. Panicles terminal, 8 to 14 in. long, 4 to 6 in. wide at the base, pendulous. Flowers white, 1 to 114 in. long, produced on stalks scarcely half as long, slightly fragrant; standard petal 12 to 34 in. across, reflexed, with a pale yellow blotch at the base. Calyx bell-shaped, 58 in. long, with five blunt teeth, and covered (like the flower-stalk) with minute down. Pod 3 to 4 in. long, 12 in. wide, flat, with four to six seeds. Bot. Mag., t. 7767.

Native of the south-east United States, most plentiful in Tennessee, although nowhere very common; introduced in 1812. This interesting tree does not flower regularly in this country, but is very distinct and handsome in its foliage, which turns bright yellow before falling, and in summer is of a beautifully vivid green and luxuriant aspect. The timber is hard, heavy, and close-grained, and when freshly cut is yellow. There is a good tree at Kew 35 ft high, with a head of branches 45 ft across, but the others mentioned in previous editions no longer exist. These were in the Knap Hill Nursery (45 ft) and at Syon House (60 ft). The best recorded recently are: Linton Park, Kent, 58 ft high (1956); Trent College, Notts., 30 × 3 ft at 212 ft (1962); Bath Botanic Garden, 30 × 214 ft. Propagated best by imported seeds. Blossoms in June.

Cladrastis lutea

Cladrastis lutea

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Burford House, Dorking, Surrey, 59 × 512 ft at 2 ft (1984); Bagshot Park, Surrey, south of House, 41 × 334 ft (1982); Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 57 × 4 ft (1974); Linton Park, Kent, 40 × 434 ft (1984); Bath Botanic Garden, 44 × 414 ft (1978).



Other species in the genus