P&PDL Picture of the Week for
August 28, 2006

Smokin' Smoketree

B. Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, Purdue University

The Common Smoketree or Smokebush, known botanically as Cotinus coggygria, is named for the smoke-like effect of the hairs found on the stalks of the flower clusters.  The flowers themselves are not showy, but after the flowers fade,  the pink to purplish hairs may go through several color changes and remain effective for through late summer.  Several cultivars have been selected for purple foliage, while others have been selected for particularly showy "smoke."

For some of the purple-leaved specimens, more colorful foliage can be forced by cutting the main trunk down to a few inches in late winter before new growth begins.  The flowers and thus smoke are sacrificed in this method, but the young vigorous shoots that result are more colorful.  The technique of routinely cutting a woody plant back to is referred to as "stooling" or "coppicing."  For more information on coppicing, see http://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profiles0105/Coppicing.asp.

There is also an American Smoketree (Cotinus obovatus) with bluish green foliage and outstanding fall color. 

Click image to enlarge

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service