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Cotinus obovatus

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Cotinus americanus
  • Cotinus cotinoides
  • Rhus cotinoides
Phonetic Spelling
ko-TYE-nus ob-oh-VAY-tus
Description

American smoke tree is native to the southern United States it is a medium-maintenance small tree or upright shrub in the Anacardiaceae family.  It prefers a well-drained infertile loam soil in the full sun but does tolerate a wide range of soils including clay and shallow rocky soil. 

The name smoke tree comes not from the  6'-10" flower clusters (green-yellow, insignificant, dioecious) which bloom in the summer, but from the airy smoky pink to pink-purple hairs on the spent flower clusters that give the tree a  hazy, smoke-like puffy appearance.  The summer "smoke" display makes this a striking accent plant. It also produces some of the best fall color of any of the native American trees and shrubs.  It looks great massed or planted at the back of a shrub border.  It does use a fair amount of water, especially in dry conditions. This plant is resistant to damage by deer.

Seasons of Interest:

    Bloom: Summer  Foliage: Fall

Notes: Outstanding fall foliage

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No serious insect or disease problems. Sometimes leaf spots, rust and wilt can cause issues on stressed trees.

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Grace'
    Tall shrub purple leaves good red fall color
  • 'Red Leaf'
    Brilliant red fall color
'Grace', 'Red Leaf'
Tags:
#deciduous#fall color#drought tolerant#specimen#wildlife plant#red leaves#colorful leaves#colorful#fall interest#accent plant#mass planting#playground#airy#deer resistant#shrub border#children's garden#borders#blue green leaves#billowy#small group plantings#rocky soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Grace'
    Tall shrub purple leaves good red fall color
  • 'Red Leaf'
    Brilliant red fall color
'Grace', 'Red Leaf'
Tags:
#deciduous#fall color#drought tolerant#specimen#wildlife plant#red leaves#colorful leaves#colorful#fall interest#accent plant#mass planting#playground#airy#deer resistant#shrub border#children's garden#borders#blue green leaves#billowy#small group plantings#rocky soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cotinus
    Species:
    obovatus
    Family:
    Anacardiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Wildlife Value:
    Cover plant for wildlife, including birds.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Textural
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    It has minimal insect and disease problems.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 11 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Very Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Pink
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Few fruits are produced pale brown with 1 seed, dry oblong, 5 mm long. Fruit Season of interest: Summer
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are dioecious insignificant but hairs attached make for a good show especially on male plants.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    Blue-green leaves are simple and obovate to elliptical, wedge-shaeped (cuneate) at the base, slight notch at the apex, and its widest point is above the middle. This is where the the species name obovatus comes from. Fantastic fall color.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Irregular
    Bark Description:
    Furrowed and ridged gray-brown bark that has flaky scaly plates as it ages.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Recreational Play Area
    Small Space
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Barrier
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought