Cladrastis kentukea

2019 – Yellowwood

 American yellowwood is a medium-sized tree native to the southeastern United States, reaching 30-50 feet tall when mature. Indicative of its name, the wood is yellow and encased by smooth grey to light brown bark. It has panicles of white, showy, and fragrant flowers that bloom in the spring. In the fall, it can be identified by its brilliant yellow foliage and bean-like fruits.

Yellowwood grows in full-sun to full-shade, but performs best in part-sun to part-shade with well-drained soil. It makes a great residential tree and can serve as a focal point on smaller properties or can be planted in masses in larger landscapes. Its roots grow deep into the ground making it an ideal tree to plant under. Pruning should occur in summer because the wood is prone to bleeding if pruned in late winter or early spring.  There are very few cultivars of this species with the most notable being ‘Perkins Pink’ which sports light pink flowers.


Schizachyrium scoparium

2019 – Little Bluestem

 Little bluestem is a prairie grass native to eastern North America that matures at 2-4 feet tall and 1.5-2 feet wide. As the name implies, this upright perennial grass is noted for its blueish foliage that turns a beautiful copper tone in the fall. In August, a purple-bronze flower reaches over the foliage and turns into a fluffy seed head, making it a fantastic specimen for year-round interest.

This plant is very adaptable. It thrives in full sun, and can tolerate deer, drought, erosion, shallow-rocky soil, and black walnut. It looks best when planted in masses, as a border, or in a prairie-like or meadow setting. Cutting back Little Bluestem should occur in late winter or early spring. There are many cultivars of this plant including ‘Twilight Zone’, which has purple highlights towards the tip, ‘Standing Ovation’, which has dark purple and thicker blades towards the base, and ‘Carousel’, which has a lower and broader base.


Illicium floridanum

2019 – Florida Anise Tree

 Despite the common name, this rapidly growing, broadleaf evergreen shrub grows 6-10 feet tall and 4-8 feet wide. It is native to the southeastern United States and northern Mexico, and can be found in moist, wooded areas. One of its most attractive characteristics is the maroon-purple star-like blooms. The flower is 1-2 inches in diameter and blooms April-May. These unique flowers have a pungent fragrance and are pollinated by flies and beetles. The foliage has a strong spicy fragrance when crushed, which makes this plant unpalatable to deer. Florida Anise Tree thrives in moist, well-drained, and highly organic soil, and partial to full shade. Although native to the deep south, Illicium floridanum has proved winter hardy at Jenkins for over 30 years.

This plant was first discovered in 1766 and entered into cultivation shortly after. Some popular cultivars include ‘Alba’, which has a white bloom, ‘Halley’s Comet’, which has larger red blooms, and ‘Shady Lady’, which has light pink flowers and variegated foliage.