Smoke Bush, Smoke Tree
Source : Botanica p209 3rd edition 1999 © Random House Australia Pty Ltd ISBN 1 7405 1462 9
Only 3 species make up the genus Cotinus.
They have simple, oval, untoothed leaves and produce two striking features – first their inflorescences, much-branched with delicate, thread-like dull purple branchlets, only a few of which carry the small flowers; they produce a curiously ornamental effect like fine puffs of smoke scattered over the foliage. Both flowers and fruits are tiny and inconspicuous. The second feature is the deep colouring in autumn.
Smoke bushes are easily grown, adapting to a range of temperate climates but most at home where summers are moderately warm and dry. Soil that is too moist or fertile discourages free flowering. Propagate from soft-wood cuttings in summer or seed in autumn.
C. coggygria is widely distributed from southern Europe to central China, and has oval long-stalked leaves. The inflorescences appear in early summer and are pale pinkish-bronze, ageing to a duller purple-grey.
Varieties include :
‘Purpureus’, which as the name suggests, has rich, purplish spring foliage becoming greener in summer and glowing orange and purple in autumn.
‘Velvet Cloak’ has purple leaves that turn dark reddish-purple in autumn.
‘Young Lady’ has leaves that remain green throughout the growing season; these all colour magnificently in autumn.
Bonsai Island’s notes….
In our experience, Cotinus will show great autumn colour without the need for very cold nights late in the summer. This makes them an ideal tree for bonsai cultivation in Victorian coastal areas, where frosts are extremely rare and single-digit overnight temperatures generally are limited to the winter season.
The leaves of Cotinus are relatively robust and don’t show the wind-burn common in maples (Acer sp.) when kept in full sun. Cotinus is one of the first trees in the nursery to colour up for autumn, usually by early March.
So if your maple’s leaves turn brown and drop without colouring, try a Cotinus for a wonderful autumn display. The leaves are reasonably large. We suggest growing a larger design to compensate for that. If you like purple foliage during the growing season, Cotinus is more tolerant and easier to grow than Acer palmatum atropurpuream at sea level where we are.