Plant Guide > Trees > Sumachs and Smoke Tree > American Smoke Tree

American Smoke Tree

American Smoke TreeThe American Smoke Tree (Cotinus Americanus, Nutt.) shows by its pithy stems, aromatic, resinous juice, and general habit, its kinship with the sumachs, which are better known.

The large, simple leaves, 4 to 6 inches long and half as wide, are not like sumach leaves; the flowers, however, are carried aloft in terminal panicles, each sort on separate trees, and these, as well as the individual nutlets, are sumach-like.

In a panicle only one flower in a hundred sets seed, so as a fruit cluster it is a very scant one. Instead of fruits these panicles show a peculiar feathery development of the bracts. These graceful and delicate plumes, tinted pink to green, form in the aggregate a great cloud of rosy haze or smoke, that makes it a thing of beauty in the late summer. Then it earns its common names, smoke tree and mist tree.

The species ranges from Tennessee to Oklahoma, and south into Alabama and Texas. It is sometimes seen in gardens, but it cannot compete in hardiness nor in vigour nor showiness with the much more commonly cultivated Cotinus Cotinus, Sarg., the Venetian sumach, or European smoke tree.