American smoke tree (Cotinus obovatus; syn. Cotinus americanus) is a native of North America, but is little used in home landscapes. This small to medium tree produces the same "smoke" (hairy fruit stalks) as its Eurasian cousin, smoke bush, and also offers excellent fall color.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All common names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- North America
- medium tree (25-40 feet),
- Small tree (15-25 feet),
- Compact tree (10-15 feet),
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8
- Alkaline soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Occasional drought,
- Alkaline soil
Seasons of Interest:
- late summer,
- early fall,
- mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size and Form
This tree is 20 to 30 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide.
Tree & Plant Care
Avoid planting in low-lying areas where soil remains wet. Fairly drought tolerant.
Tolerant of alkaline sites.
Transplants easily due to a shallow, fibrous root system.
Disease, pests, and problems
No common problems.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to a few states in the Southern United States.
Commonly found in dry, alkaline sites.
Bark color and texture
Bark is gray brown in color and breaks into scaly plates with age.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, alternate leaves; oval or slightly elongated, 2 to 5 inches long.
Summer color is blue-green on the species; fall color may be varying shades of yellow, orange, red and purple.
Fall color is reddish-purple on the species.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
The actual flowers are tiny and not showy. The structure that holds the flowers is covered with hairs and this is the 'smoke' for which the tree is named.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
The true fruit are small and dry. Again, the structure that holds the fruit is the source of the 'smoke' of this plant.
Cultivars and their differences
These cultivars may be difficult to find in nurseries.
Cotton Candy™ American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus 'Northstar'): Hardy to zone 3. Large clusters of pink 'smoke' and good red and orange fall color. Drought tolerant.
Grace smoketree (Cotinus 'Grace'): A hybrid of Cotinus obovatus and Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak'. Large pink flower panicles with 4 to 6 inch long blue-green leaves. Can be a small tree or large shrub reaching 15 to 20 feet high.