American Smoke Tree

Cotinus obovatus

A small tree with many favorable attributes that does well in tough urban conditions. The blue-green leaves of summer turn to riot of yellow, orange, red, and reddish purple in the fall. After the flowers are spent in mid- summer, they produce little hairs that give the tree its “smokey” appearance. Older specimens develop scaly bark that is attractive in winter.

Power Line Approved: Yes

Min. street tree planting width: 5 feet

Mature Height: 25 feet

Mature Spread: 20 feet

Tree Shape: Rounded

Where to Plant:
Works well in smaller planting strips under wires or in a small yard space.

Blue green foliage turns into a tapestry of yellow, orange, red, and reddish purple in the fall.

Small yellow green flower clusters develop hairs after they fade which give the tree a “smokey” appearance.


Preferred Site Conditions:
Full sun. Can handle tough urban conditions and poor soil but not standing water. Drought tolerant once established.

Potential Problems:
No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to verticillium wilt.

Minimum Planting Distances:

  • 15 feet from house or building
  • 3 ½ feet back from the face of the curb
  • 5 feet from underground utility lines
  • 10 feet from power poles
  • 7 ½ feet from driveways (10 feet recommended)
  • 20 feet from street lights and other existing trees
  • 30 feet from street intersections

Additional Resources