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COTINUS obovatus

Image of Cotinus obovatus

Jesse Saylor

Family

Anacardiaceae

Botanical Name

COTINUS obovatus

Plant Common Name

American Smokebush

General Description

Unlike other cultivated Cotinus, the American smoketree lacks big, super showy puffs of summer smoke, but what it lacks in smoke it makes up in smashing fall color. Landscape specimens of this small tree may be single or multi-trunked and have an open, rounded habit. Natural populations exist across the South Central United States, from Missouri and Kentucky down to Georgia and Texas, and favor open uplands with dry, rocky, limestone soils.

The simple leaves of American smoketree are perfectly oval with rounded ends. They tend to be blue-green and waxy above and lighter green beneath; new leaves often have a pinkish blush and the fall foliage turns brilliant shades of yellow, orange, red and purple-red. Both the leaves and the stems are resinous and fragrant when broken or crushed. Effervescent, branched panicles of green or greenish purple support inconspicuous flowers with fluffy pink appendages in mid to late spring. The trees are dioecious, which means plants produce either male or female flowers. The female trees produce tiny greenish berries in summer.

Choose an open, sunny, upland spot with neutral to alkaline soil for best performance. Otherwise, this tough, drought tolerant tree is quite easy to grow and has few pest and disease problems aside from occasional late-season fungal leaf spots. American smoketree looks best when grown as a single-trunked specimen tree in an open lawn. It grows relatively slowly but looks great when mature.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    5 - 8

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    12'-36' / 3.7m - 11.0m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Late Spring

  • Native To

    South-Central United States, Texas

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Yellow Green, Light Pink

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Light Pink

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green, Blue Green, Pink

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Light Green, Blue Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Red, Purple, Orange, Gold

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Mixed Border, Street Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes