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Cladrastis kentukea

The Kentucky yellowwood is a deciduous tree native to the southeastern United States. This species is a member of the legume family and produces its seeds in typical legume pods.


There are at least ten Kentucky yellowwood trees in the arboretum. See if you can spot any as you walk past the foundations of Hadwen’s house, or perhaps as you wander along Larch Lane.

Kentucky yellowwood leaf

Kentucky yellowwood tree

History at Hadwen

We have records of Hadwen planting Kentucky yellowwood trees until 1900 when he lectured that “The Yellow-Wood ranks among the finest of ornamental trees, with graceful foliage and clusters or racemes of white flowers in June. It forms a shapely head and grows freely in good ground. An admirable tree in any collection.”

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Detailed Species Information

The Kentucky yellowwood, also known as the American yellowwood, is a deciduous tree in the family Fabaceae native to the southeastern United States. This species typically grows from 30–50 feet (9–15 meters) in height with a large, rounded crown. The bark of the Kentucky yellowwood is smooth and greenish-grey and turns greener when wet. The ovate-shaped leaves are compounded with seven to nine leaflets. In mid-spring, the tree produces slightly fragrant white flowers that hang in clusters up to 10–14 inches (25 cm) long.

The Kentucky yellowwood prefers moist, well-drained soils and full sunlight. The tree is also an important pollinator plant for many bees and butterflies. The tree has no notable commercial value as timber, but its wood is sometimes used for handles, decorative carving, and furniture. Kentucky yellowwood is cultivated as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens because of its ornamental qualities, including its attractive flowers and relatively smaller size.

Contact Information

Hadwen Arboretum