Cladrastis kentukea ‘Sweetshade’
The American yellowwood, (Cladrastis kentukea) is a medium-sized landscape tree. It is a member of the pea family, with bright green foliage and smooth silvery-gray bark that becomes more sinuous as the tree matures. A low-branching species that prefers full sun, yellowwood has a rounded crown and grows 30 to 50 feet tall with a spread equal to its height. Yellowwood will not flower until it is about 10 years old, but then its blossoms can cover the tree in long (10-15 inches) terminal panicles of wisteria-like flowers. The long, drooping clusters of white flowers are favored by honey bees and are strongly fragrant. A profuse bloom may only happen every couple of years, however. After the blooms are pollinated, they form brown leguminous pods. The tree, although slow-growing, is adaptable and tolerant of poor soils, and is native to the South Central United States. It is found principally on the limestone cliffs of Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, but it is hardy at the north to zone 4.
The ‘Sweetshade’ cultivar was developed by Princeton Nurseries and was patented by William Flemer III in 1969. [PP2,935]. Its bloom is similar in appearance to that of black locust (Robinia). It has deep golden leaves in the fall. Its mature size will reach 30 to 50 feet high and equally as wide, forming into a vase shape. Each leaf will measure up to 12 inches long and will be made up of seven to 11 leaflets. The yellowwood name is due to the fact that the heartwood of this tree is yellow and can be used to make dyes. This tree tends to bleed sap from wounds made in the winter, so pruning should be performed in the summer or right after flowering is complete in the late spring. Its deep root system allows for shade plants to be grown underneath.