Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

The common name refers to the yellow coloration of the heartwood, which later becomes light brown after it has been cut and dried. It was used to make gunstocks, small decorative furniture, and other specialty items. Yellow-Wood is an unusual tree with smooth bark, showy flowers, and attractive fall coloration. Therefore, it should be cultivated more often.
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Description

This medium-sized tree is 30-65' tall at maturity, forming a short trunk that soon branches and subdivides into a rounded crown. On old trees, trunk bark is light gray and pebbly, while on young trees it is light gray and smooth. Branches are usually gray and smooth, although sometimes they are brown. Twigs are light gray or brown, glabrous, and covered with scattered white lenticels. Often, the trunk and larger branches of older trees are covered with lichens or moss. Alternate compound leaves up to 1' long occur along the twigs; these leaves are usually odd-pinnate with 7-9 leaflets. The leaflets are arranged alternately along the rachis (central stalk) of each compound leaf; they are not directly opposite from each other. Individual leaflets are 3-4" long and and 1½-2¼" across; they are ovate or obovate, smooth along their margins, and pinnately veined. The upper leaf surface is yellowish green to medium green and glabrous, while the lower surface is pale green and hairless to pubescent. The slender petiolules (basal stalklets) of the leaflets are short (about ¼" in length), light green, and glabrous. The petioles of the compound leaves are 3-6" long, light green, and glabrous; they have swollen bases that encircle (or nearly encircle) the buds. The buds are brown and hairy. Drooping panicles of white flowers about 6-14" long and 3-6" across develop toward the tips of twigs; they are more broad at their bases than their tips. The branches and pedicels of each panicle are light green and glabrous. Individual flowers are about 1" long; each flower has a pea-like floral structure consisting of an upright banner (upper petal) and 2 forward projecting wings (2 lateral petals) that enclose a narrow keel (2 inner petals that are appressed together). These petals are white. At the base of each flower, there is short tubular calyx with 5 teeth that is light green. The reproductive organs consist of 10 separate stamens and a pistil with a single style. The pedicels are about the same length as the flowers. The blooming period occurs during the late spring for about 2-3 weeks. The flowers are fragrant. Individual trees bloom abundantly about once every 3-4 years. The flowers are replaced by flattened seedpods that are 2-4" long, ¼-¾" across, dark brown, and glabrous at maturity. Each seedpod contains 0-6 seeds; the lateral sides of the seedpods are often undulate and partially constricted between the seeds. The root system of young trees forms a taproot. During the autumn, the deciduous leaves become yellow or golden yellow.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Yellow-Wood is a rare tree in natural areas of Illinois; it is state-listed as 'endangered' and restricted to the southern tip of the state (see Distribution Map). However, it is sometimes cultivated as a landscape tree. Habitats include rich mesic woodlands in river valleys, lower slopes of wooded bluffs, shaded banks of rivers (above the floodplain zone), and protected rocky coves in mountainous areas. Yellow-Wood is found in high quality natural areas where deciduous trees are abundant. Because of its thin bark, Yellow-Wood is intolerant of fire.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Perennial, Trees, Woody throughout, Stems erect or ascending, Stems greater than 2 m tall, Stems solid, Stems or young twigs glabrous or sparsely glabrate, Leaves alternate, Leaves petiolate, Stipules inconspicuous, absent, or caducous, Leaves compound, Leaves odd pinnate, Leaf or leaflet margins entire, Leaflets alternate or subopposite, Leaflets 5-9, Leaves glabrous or nearly so, Inflo rescence panicles, Inflorescence terminal, Bracts very small, absent or caducous, Flowers zygomorphic, Calyx 5-lobed, Calyx hairy, Petals separate, Corolla papilionaceous, Petals clawed, Petals white, Banner petal ovoid or obovate, Banner petal auriculate, Wing petals narrow, oblanceolate to oblong, Wing petals auriculate, Wing tips obtuse or rounded, Keel petals auriculate, spurred, or gibbous, Keel tips obtuse or rounded, not beaked, Stamens 9-10, Stamens completely free, separate, Anthers versatile, Style terete, Fruit a legume, Fruit stipitate, Fruit unilocular, Fruit freely dehiscent, Fruit elongate, straight, Fruits winged, carinate, or samaroid, Fruit exserted from calyx, Fruit glabrous or glabrate, Fruit 1-seeded, Fruit 2-seeded, Fruit 3-10 seeded, Seeds ovoid to rounded in outline, Seeds reniform, Seed surface smooth, Seeds olive, brown, or black.
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Dr. David Bogler

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Type Information

Isoneotype for Sophora kentukea Dum.-Cours.
Catalog Number: US 3617731
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: ; Status verified from secondary sources
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): K. Heafner
Year Collected: 1999
Locality: North Carolina, Jackson Co. Highway 107, 1 mile S. of junction with Hwy 116 at the Jack the Dipper Ice Cream Store. Just south of Sylva, N.C., Jackson, North Carolina, United States, North America
  • Isoneotype: Dumont de Courset, G. L. M. 1811. Bot. Cult. 6: 56.; Duley, M. L. & Vincent, M. A. 2003. Rhodora. 105: 221.
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Isotype for Cladrastis lutea f. tomentosa Steyerm.
Catalog Number: US 1532562
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): E. J. Palmer
Year Collected: 1929
Locality: Alabama, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Steyermark, J. A. 1938. Rhodora. 40: 487.
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Yellow-Wood is a rare tree in natural areas of Illinois; it is state-listed as 'endangered' and restricted to the southern tip of the state (see Distribution Map). However, it is sometimes cultivated as a landscape tree. Habitats include rich mesic woodlands in river valleys, lower slopes of wooded bluffs, shaded banks of rivers (above the floodplain zone), and protected rocky coves in mountainous areas. Yellow-Wood is found in high quality natural areas where deciduous trees are abundant. Because of its thin bark, Yellow-Wood is intolerant of fire.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Associations

Faunal Associations

Little is known about floral-faunal relationships for this rare tree. The flowers are probably pollinated by bumblebees and other large long-tongued bees. Yellow-Wood is one of the host plants of a leaf beetle, Odontota dorsalis (Locust Leaf Miner); the larvae of this beetle are leaf-miners, while the adults chew holes in the leaves. There is some evidence that an overpopulation of White-Tailed Deer can contribute to the decline of Yellow-Wood in protected natural areas (Mitchell et al., 1997; Lindsey et al., 1969). Young trees, in particular, may be vulnerable to the effects of deer browsing on their leaves and twigs.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Cladrastis kentukea

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cladrastis kentukea

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

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Threats

Comments: Thrreatened by forest management practices; disease or pests may also be a factor (Southern Appalachian Species Viability Project 2002).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

Yellow-Wood adapts to full or partial sun, mesic conditions, and soil containing silt or loam. It is not particular about soil pH and can be cultivated north of its natural range. This tree is prone to storm-related damage because the large forking branches that often develop above the trunk are prone to breakage. Therefore, it is best to cultivate this tree in areas that are protected from strong wind. Sometimes, verticillium wilt and other disease organisms can weaken or kill this tree.
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Wikipedia

Cladrastis kentukea

Cladrastis kentukea, the Kentucky yellowwood or American yellowwood (syn. C. lutea, C. tinctoria), is a species of Cladrastis native to the Southeastern United States, with a restricted range from western North Carolina west to eastern Oklahoma, and from southern Missouri and Indiana south to central Alabama. Also the tree is sometimes called Virgilia.[1]

Description[edit]

Leaves

Cladrastis kentukea is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree typically growing 10–15 metres (33–49 ft) tall, exceptionally to 27 metres (89 ft) tall, with a broad, rounded crown and smooth gray bark. The leaves are compound pinnate, 20-30 cm long, with 5-11 (mostly 7-9) alternately arranged leaflets, each leaflet broad ovate with an acute apex, 6-13 cm long and 3-7 cm broad, with an entire margin and a thinly to densely hairy underside. In the fall, the leaves turn a mix of yellow, gold, and orange.

The flowers are fragrant, white, produced in Wisteria-like racemes 15-30 cm long. Flowering is in early summer (June in its native region), and is variable from year to year, with heavy flowering every second or third year. The fruit is a pod 5-8 cm long, containing 2-6 seeds.

  • Bark: Smooth gray, or light brown. Branchlets at first downy, but soon become smooth, light yellowish green; later red brown, finally dark brown.
  • Wood: Yellow to pale brown; heavy, hard, close-grained and strong. Sp. gr., 0.6278; weight of cu. ft., 39.12 lbs.
  • Winter buds: Four in a group, making a tiny cone and inclosed in the hollow base of the petiole.
  • Leaves: Alternate, pinnately compound, eight to twelve inches long, main stem stout, enlarged at base. Leaflets seven to eleven, broadly oval, three to four inches long. Wedge-shaped at base, entire, acute, terminal leaflets rhomboid-ovate. Feather-veined, midrib and primary veins prominent, grooved above, light yellow beneath. They come out the bud pale green, downy; when full grown are dark green above, pale beneath. In autumn they turn a bright clear yellow.
  • Flowers: June. Perfect, papilionaceous, white, borne in drooping terminal panicles twelve to fourteen inches long, five to six inches broad, slightly fragrant.
  • Calyx: Campanulate, five-lobed, enlarged on the upper side.
  • Corolla: Papilinaceous; standard broad, white, marked on the inner surface with a pale yellow blotch; wings oblong; keel petals free.
  • Stamens: Ten, free; filaments thread-like.
  • Pistil: Ovary superior, linear, bright red, hairy, bearing a long incurved style.
  • Fruit: Legume, smooth, linear-compressed, tipped with the remnants of the styles. Seeds four to six, dark brown.[1]

Distribution[edit]

One of the rarest trees of eastern North America. Found principally on the limestone cliffs of Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, but it is hardy at the north.

The largest specimen known is at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio, 22 m tall and 2.2 m trunk diameter; the tallest known is a slender tree 27 m tall but only 0.55 m trunk diameter, at Plott Cove Research Natural Area, Georgia (Spongberg & Ma 1997; Eastern Native Trees Society).

Plants from Alabama have the leaves more densely hairy underneath than those from further north, and are distinguished as Cladrastis kentukea f. tomentosa (Steyermark) Spongberg.

Cultivation[edit]

Cladrastis kentukea is widely grown as an ornamental tree for its attractive flowers, and is locally naturalized in many areas of the eastern United States outside of its restricted native range.[1] It thrives in full sunlight and in well-drained soil, tolerates high pH soils as well as acid situations. The Yellowwood can withstand urban settings and is attractive to birds. A number of cultivars have been selected, including 'Perkin's Pink' (syn. 'Rosea', an invalid name) with pink flowers.

Kentucky Yellowwood is recommended as one of the best medium sized trees for cultivation as an ornamental plant in gardens. The only quality that is mentioned is a tendency of the trunk to divide very near the ground, as a multi-trunked tree.[1]

bark and low branching habit

Uses[edit]

The name yellowwood derives from its yellow heartwood, used in small amounts for specialist furniture, gunstocks and decorative woodturning.

References[edit]

  • Andrews, S. Trees of the Year: Cladrastis and Maakia. Int. Dendrol. Soc. Year Book 1996: 12–26.
  • Spongberg, S. A. & Ma, J.-S. (1997). Cladrastis (Leguminosae subfamily Faboideae tribe Sophoreae): a historic and taxonomic overview. Int. Dendrol. Soc. Year Book 1996: 27–35.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons. pp. 116–118. 
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