- Broadleaf deciduous tree, 30-50 ft (9-15 m), usually low branching with broad, rounded crown of delicate
branches. Leaves alternate, odd-pinnately compound, 20-30 cm long, usually 7-9 leaflets (terminal
leaflet largest), each elliptic to ovate, entire, bright green, petiole enlarged at base and enclosing
bud. Flowers small, fragrant, white, in pendulous clusters; pods (legume) turn brown in fall.
- Sun. Well-drained soil. Tolerates alkaline and acid pH soils, native to limestone cliffs and
- Hardy to USDA Zone 4 Native from North Carolina to Kentucky and Tennessee.
- Cladrastis: from the Greek, klado, a branch, and thraustos, fragile, referring to
the brittle shoots.
kentukea: of Kentucky. Once known as C. lutea, with lutea (yellow), referring
to its yellow wood (see below).
- The Naming Hisory: Yellowwood was first named Sophora kentukea by Dumont de Courset in
1811. In 1813, Francois Andre Michaux (= Michx. f.) described the same plant as Virgilia lutea,
apparently unaware of Dumont de Coursetís earlier description. In 1825, Rafinesque used the name
Virgilia kentuckensis, presumably based upon Sophora kentukea, though this was an incorrect
spelling. In 1869, the respected dendrologist K. Koch made the new combination Cladrastis lutea
based on Virgilia lutea, perhaps unaware of the earlier names used by Rafinesque and Dumont de
Courset. Velma Rudd (1971, 1972) finally corrected this error and made the new combination
Cladrastis kentukea based upon the earliest name for the plant, following the Botanical Rules of
Nomenclature, first using the epithet kentuckea (Rudd 1971), and later correcting that to kentukea
(Rudd 1972). From the excellent publication: Conservation Assessment or Yellowwood
(Cladrastis kentukea (Dum.-Cours.) Rudd), INHS Technical Report 2007 (28)
- Corvallis: Central Park, west of the playground area.
- Oregon State Univ. campus: southwest side of Ag. Strand Hall; south of the CH2M-Hill Alumni Center.