Shrub of the Week: Smokebush

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Smokebush or smoketree (Cotinus) is puffing away right now, providing the almost ethereal inflorescences that give it its name  and alternates such as cloud bush, mist tree, wig tree, and Jupiter’s beard.  


smokebush inflorescence with drupes
The frills of smokebush flowers with single-seeded drupes


smokebush foliage
smokebush foliage


  Two species are used in landscaping, our native Cotinus obovatus, a la rger plant much used on the High Line Park in New York City and Cotinus coggygria, the European smokebush.  This genus is in the Anacardiaceae family, cousin to sumacs – ornamental and poisonous versions - poison ivy (Rhus or Toxicodendron species), cashew, mango, and pistachio. 


  There are a number of wonderful European smokebush cultivars, such as ‘Grace’ and ‘Royal Purple’. .  There are few serious problems, except for Verticillium wilt disease. Japanese beetles love to entwine themselves into the spidery floral webs.


A Japanese beetle in the smokebush web
A Japanese beetle explores a smokebush...



...and is joined by a Japanese beetle party
Japanese beetlemania


  The large, airy flower panicles may reach a foot across, and fruits include one seed apiece. Check out their hairy, Greek-god-like, manes. Poof and before too long, they shall be gone.  There are few serious problems, except for Verticillium wilt disease.   

Smokebush and buildings along the High Line in NYC
Smokebush offsetting the buildings along the High Line in NYC 


Smokebush matching bricktones in NYC
smokebush matching brick tones along the High Line