Common Name: yellowwood

Scientific Name: 
Genus: Cladrastis
Species: kentukea

Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 30 to 50 ft
Width: 40 to 55 ft

Common characteristics:

Yellowwood is a medium-sized, deciduous tree of the legume family that typically grows 30-50’ tall with upright branching and a broad, rounded crown. Yellowwood is a tree with few known diseases or insect problems and is named for its unique yellow interior wood. Leaves are pinnately compound usually with 7-11 leaflets and open as yellowish-green then turn bright green in summer. Showy fragrant white flowers will form in the spring forming drooping clusters or pea-like structures. The clusters are 8 to 14 inches in length. Flowering tends to alternate years with heavy flowering one year and then a light flowering year the next. New trees however may not bloom for the first 8-10 years.

Where it grows:

Though not native to Minnesota, it has been shown to be a hardy tree here and would make a great landscape addition. Plant yellowwood in moist well-drained soils in direct sunlight. Its roots run deep which allows for other plants to grow underneath it with little competition. 

How it’s used:

Can be used in Boulevards, or as a Patio or sidewalk shade tree. Yellowwood is moderately tolerant of dry sites and wet sites, alkaline soil, clay soil, and road salts. 

Where it is native to:

The native range of yellowwood is North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Also in areas of Illinois, Indiana, and other southern states. Can often be found in rich, well-drained limestone soils in river valleys, slopes, and ridges.


One concern is its brittle branches and potential poor branch unions, causing a higher risk of damage from snow and ice. Use corrective pruning to eliminate weak branch unions when young, avoid pruning in early spring due to excessive bleeding.


Missouri Botanical Garden (Plant Finder) Found Online:

Morton Arboretum (Trees and Shrubs) Found Online: