Cotinus coggygria 'R. PURPLE'

Cotinus coggygria 'royal purple" at the beginning of spring.

The Purple Smoke Tree awakens from Winter dormancy with quiet explosions of vivid color at the tips of its branches.  When observed closely, these first stages of leaf growth provide stunning color to the Spring landscape (below).

Early leaf color of Cotinus coggygria.


Royal Purple Smoke Tree image in full summer display.

The canopy is full by early Summer.  The Smoke Tree is native to Eurasia, and is dioecious (M/F flowers on separate trees).  This one is female. Both males and females bloom, only the females bear seeds.


Emerging flowers of the Purple Smoke Tree.

As the tree canopy leafs out, the Smoke Tree also develops the flower structure which will ultimately yield its signature "smoke".  The flowers are very small, and arranged in a tight cluster when beginning to bloom.  The flowers then perch atop stems to bloom.  This structure, called a panicle, will stay on the tree even after the flowers are gone.


Flowers of the female Cotinus cottygria.

The fertilized flowers reach full bloom in mid-summer, and seeds begin to form - a sign the flowers' job is done.  The seeds are tiny, but notice they are all arranged on long, narrow stems.  The flowers will soon leave the tree, but...


The "smoke" of the Royal Purple Smoke Tree.

If you look closely, you can see the tiny, kidney-shaped seeds.  The flowers are gone, the seeds are maturing, but the stalks and panicles of the original flowers now form a dense canopy that surrounds the Smoke Tree.  Portions of these parts are also hairy, adding to the illusion of "smoke".


Image of marcescent seeds and petioles of Royal Purple Smoke Tree.

The show is largely over by late August, but a few dried seeds persist (right).  The tree still appears "smoky" as it will take a few more weeks for the flower/panicle structures to rejoin the environment.


Branching and bark are the main attractions of the Purple Smoke tree in winter.

Winter dormancy brings an opportunity to study the branching structure, curious bark, and interesting buds of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple".