Thursday, June 4, 2009
Yellowwood, A Rare Tree -- Now In Bloom
American Yellowwood ( Cladrastis kentukea) is a mid-sized deciduous tree. Apparently it also has the scientific name Cladrastic lutea. Common names besides Yellowwood are Gopherwood and Vergilia. Andre Micheaux, the French botanist discovered the Yellowwood Tree near Fort Blount, Tennessee in 1796. I don't think it is considered likely that it is the Gopherwood mentioned in the Bible as the material that the Tower of Babel and Noah's Ark were made of. It could be where the common name came from however. American Yellowwood is called "One of the rarested trees in the eastern United States." Not native to our biota, an article I read said "many people have never seen the tree in bloom." A North Carolina botanist wrote he found only one in the wild after years of looking. Native habitate for the tree is wide but there are only a few trees scattered over large areas mostly in the upper South and in the Ozark region of Arkansas. In the wild the tree is imperiled or vulnerable. Officially the species is classified as Endangered by Illinois and Threatened by Indiana. Rare in the wild and seldom planted in yards.
Pine Hollow Arboretum is fortunate to have a mature example of this beautiful tree. The tree has wisteria-like foot-long flowers usually white but they can be pink. They do not bloom every year. The fruits are long bean-like pods. The plant is part of the Legume family and is therefore distantly related to Locusta and Red Buds. Dye makers have used the bright yellow heart wood to make yellow dye. Great chance to come by and see a mature tree in full bloom which is a stunning sight.