Common Name: American Smoketree, Smokebush, Chittamwood
Botanical Name: Cotinus obovatus
Native Range: Found naturally growing in limestone-based soils in Tennessee, Alabama, and Texas. USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8.
Height: Typically grows to 20-30 feet.
Spread: Typically grows to a spread of 20 feet.
Form: A small deciduous tree with a rounded growing habit.
Growth Rate: Moderate growth rate.
Sun: Does best in full sun.
Soil: Prefers well drained soil but can tolerate less favorable conditions.
Leaf Description: Simple alternate leaves range from oval to slightly egg-shaped and are 2-5 inches long. The summer color is blue-green. Fall color ranges from yellow to orange to reddish purple depending on the species.
Fall Color: Ornamental in fall. The color varies from yellow, red, or orange, to reddish depending on the cultivar.
Flower Description: The flowers are inconspicuous and open in May, but the structure that holds the flowers is hairy and results in the “smoke” for which the tree is named. The 6-10” (panicles) persist throughout summer while the foliage is more spectacular in the fall.
Fruit: The Smoketree fruit is a ¼” drupe. The seeds are a food source for native finches.
Bark Description: The bark is grayish-brown in color and is smooth when the tree is young. Bark becomes scale-like with plates as the tree ages.
Wildlife Benefit: Provides shelter and nesting for many varieties of birds and pollinators.
High Ph and Low Ph
Extreme heat and extreme cold
Possible Disease and Insect Problems: Minimal
Uses: Can be used as a specimen tree or as a screen in the landscape
This plant shows great deer resistance.
The wood was used as fence posts and made into tool handles.
During the Civil War, smoketree wood was used extensively in making yellow and orange dyes to the point that the tree was almost extinct.
Overwatering or over-fertilizing can result in serious damage to the tree.
The tree is related to the sumac.
The leaves are fragrant when crushed.
Two American Smoketrees grow at the base of the tomb of Abraham Lincoln.
The tree was discovered in Oklahoma in 1819
Dirr, M. A.; Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. 2019