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