Monday, October 26, 2009

Yellowwood

Autumn really is a wonderful time of year for tree watching. Not just for the aesthetic pleasure of seeing various trees' leaves change from green to yellow, orange or red, but also because while this change is taking place, different trees will begin to reveal themselves to you.

For instance, the entry to Central Park near the 5th Avenue stop on the NR train has never slowed my pace very much. If I enter the park here, I usually rush down to the nearby pond (the one where we saw our friend taking a dip last August) and then begin to meander through the landscape.

But on Saturday, this yellow tree caught my eye before I'd even entered the park.


When I neared the tree I quickly realized it was yellowwood (or Cladrastis kentukea, or C. lutea). I was delighted. I love this tree, but until now I have only been able to show students a smallish specimen near the magnolias behind the Met, or the larger one in Jefferson Market Garden.



Yellowwood are fairly easy to identify. They have a pinnately compound leaf with leaflets quite larger than a honey locust, sophora or black locust. More specifically, the terminal leaflet is always broader in shape than the lateral leaflets. It is almost spatula-shaped, where the lateral ones are simple footballs.



Like those other trees with pinnately compound leaves, Cladrastis is in the Fabaceae or pea family (also considered the Leguminosae family). And, like other members of that family, the tree has long, pendulous sweetpea-like flowers in the late spring.


The bark is gray and smooth. If one were to trim a branch and look at the cut, they would see yellow heartwood, thus the common name.


Cladrastis comes from the Greek words klados (branch) and thraustos (fragile). clearly refers to a native range. The other species name, lutea, means yellow.

10 comments:

how it grows said...

I love yellowwoods and always recommend them to clients, but they never bite...I guess just because they're so unfamiliar with them. Have you ever seen the one at Bartram's garden in Philadelphia? It's a couple hundred years old and amazing!

Tina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tina said...

What a seasonal post. What makes certain trees turn yellow vs red vs orange vs brown. I love the bright orange, reddish ones. They look fiery.

Sally said...

Bartram Gardens, wow! I got my girl scout badge there. I think it was a campfire badge however, Philadelphia as NYC has such great mature trees. I grew up with London Plain Trees lining my street.

Sally said...

All the trees in the backyard, at least about 70 percent of them are yellow. Are they Hickory's or Birches?

Invertir en oro said...

Wow! great blog. I know you went surfing one past New Years Day, so this is sans wet suit, san boots, gloves hat and so on. Congrats.

Indian Pharmacy said...

Autumn is nostalgic about old times and also is perfect to go to the park and sleep in on bench and feel the wind, i never be in this place but i have a certain idea of how it feels.

India Pharmacy said...

Thanks for share, i like autumn this part of the year is very nostalgic for me, but also the a nice season for write a book or just a post in your blog next to the window.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post on the yellowwood!

Walter Dundervill said...

There is a substantial young Yellowwood near the Nassau Ave entrance to McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, BK. It's branches create a fragrant canopy over the sidewalk when in bloom. There is also a majestic older specimen at the NYBG - tucked away on the back side of the Haupt Conservatory.