Cotinus obovatus aka Chittamwood


Cotinus obovatus, also known as the American smoketree, chittamwood, or American smokewood, is a rare species of flowering plant in the genus Cotinus of the family Anacardiaceae. It is native to scattered locations in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, and Tennessee. This deciduous shrub grows up to 10 m tall and 8 m broad, with oval leaves that can reach up to 12 cm in length. During summer, it produces panicles of pink-grey flowers, and in autumn, its foliage turns a vibrant scarlet, which is considered to be one of the most intense fall colors of any tree. The smokey effect is created by the clusters of hairs on the spent flower stalks. It is highly sought after and cultivated in botanical gardens worldwide. The tree is dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants. The heartwood of Cotinus obovatus is a bright yellow. Despite its rarity, the species is not currently in danger of extinction in the wild. This vigorous shrub has large rounded leaves that open purplish-pink and later turn green, eventually transforming into shades of orange, red, and purple during autumn. Its flowers are pinkish and form a plume up to 30 cm in length. Cotinus obovatus is a small, rounded deciduous tree or large upright shrub that is native to Missouri, particularly in limestone glades, rocky limestone bluffs, and bald knobs in the White River area. The name "smoketree" is derived from the billowy hairs on the spent flower clusters, which turn a smoky pink to purplish pink, giving the tree a fluffy, hazy appearance. The obovate leaves are bluish green, and in fall, the foliage exhibits a variety of colors, including yellow, red, orange, and reddish purple, making it one of the most visually stunning native American trees. The genus name, Cotinus, is derived from the Greek word "kotinus," meaning olive, while the specific epithet, obovatus, refers to the shape of the leaves, which are broadest at the upper end. This species is native to rocky mountain soils in Kentucky, Tennessee, northern Alabama, and Oklahoma, with a few disjunct populations in central Texas. Cotinus obovatus is an exceptional ornamental tree, with decorative bark, soothing blue-green leaves in spring and summer, and vibrant oranges and reds in fall. Its flowers create ethereal clouds of pink and purple in spring, appearing as if smoke is billowing in the breeze. This tree is drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, and well-adapted to the stony soils of its native habitat, making it a low-maintenance choice for gardeners.

Common names

Chittamwood, American Smoketree

How to care for Chittamwood


Caring for Chittamwood is a breeze, as it is highly adaptable and forgiving to minor neglect.


Chittamwood should be watered regularly, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.


Chittamwood loves a well-draining soil. Perlite and vermiculite help with drainage, while coco coir adds organic matter, so a good potting soil mix will have all three. You can improve store-bought soil by adding some perlite to it.


Chittamwood requires abundant, bright, and direct light to thrive. The best placement for this plant is within one foot of a window to ensure it receives enough light. If you live in an area with more extreme weather, such as hot summers or cold winters, you may need to adjust the placement of the plant accordingly. During hot summer months, it is important to place the plant away from full sun, as this can cause the leaves to yellow or burn. During cold winter months, it is best to move the plant closer to the window to take advantage of the extra light that can help it survive. By keeping an eye on the current weather in your area, you can make sure your American Smoketree is always in the right place to thrive.


There is no verified data on the toxicity of this plant in the records of Ploi. If any person, including yourself, a family member, or a pet, consume plant material with an uncertain toxicity level, it is advisable to seek the advice of a healthcare expert.


The Chittamwood is characterized by its slow growth and doesn't need fertilization in addition to its potting soil. By renewing the soil in its pot once a year, it should have enough nutrition. Remember, plants get their energy from sunlight, not from any fertilizers.

Region of origin

Chittamwood’s native range is South-eastern N. America - Tennessee to Alabama and Texas.

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