'Perkins Pink' Yellowwood
'Perkins Pink' Yellowwood

'Perkins Pink' Yellowwood

Regular price $5.00 Sale

Cladrastis kentukea

Origin: Watertown, Massachusetts

Improvement status: Cultivar

Seeds per packet: ~10


Life cycle: Perennial

Yellowwood is one of the rarest native trees in North America, and also one of the most spectacular. It occurs mainly on the limestone cliffs of Kentucky, Tennessee, and western North Carolina, with a few scattered populations in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Virginia. It is found in most abundance in Missouri and around Nashville, Tennessee. Yet it is hardy to Zone 4 and well-adapted to a range of soils and growing conditions. Its delicate cascading racemes of beautiful and fragrant white flowers — reminiscent of wisteria or black locust, but looser and longer, up to 15 inches — make it a much sought-after ornamental tree in places far beyond its range. We're told it's even being recommended as a street tree in the Twin Cities these days! But it's not only gorgeous: it's also quite useful thanks to its dense, hard wood — especially its beautiful yellow heartwood — used for furniture, musical instruments, gunstocks, and decorative arts. The wood yields a clear yellow dye as well. Additionally, its flowers are beloved by a wide range of beneficial insects, especially bees and butterflies.

The flowers of yellowwood are typically white, with a bit of yellow, but in the 1930s an unusual pink-flowering tree was found growing at the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. The 'Perkins Pink' cultivar is quite rare in the nursery trade these days, but we're excited to be able to offer some here for the first time. These seeds were foraged in southeastern Pennsylvania by EFN co-founder Nate Kleinman and our friend Dylan Bruce of Circadian Organics. We can't guarantee the offspring will maintain the lovely pink color of the parent tree, but we believe it's well worth trying! And who knows — maybe one of these seedlings will produce even pinker or downright red flowers!

GROWING TIPS: Seeds respond best to some treatment in order to break dormancy — this can mean pouring nearly-boiling water over them, then soaking for 24 hours before stratifying in cool moist sand or peat for 90 days, or sowing in the fall directly in place. Some other methods are described here. Yellowwood trees can grow to roughly 60 feet tall, with a spread of up to 40 feet, but they will fill a smaller canopy space if that's all they're given.

NOTE: Photos are from Francis Groeters, shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 license.