Herb: Smoke Tree

Latin name: Cotinus coggygria

Synonyms: Rhus coggygria, Rhus cotinus

Family: Anacardiaceae (Cashew Family, Sumac Family)

Medicinal use of Smoke Tree:

The yellow wood is used as a cholagogue, febrifuge and for eye ailments.

Description of the plant:


5 m
(16 feet)

to July


Habitat of the herb:

Dry hillsides, rocky places and open woods, usually on limestone, to 1300 metres.

Edible parts of Smoke Tree:

Leaves. They are possibly edible. Some caution is advised. A volatile oil in the leaves contains pinene and camphene. One report suggests that the essential oil contained in the flowers and leaves has a mango-like odour. We have tried these leaves and really would not recommend them to anyone.

Other uses of the herb:

An essential oil is obtained from the leaves and flowers. It has a mango-like smell. Is it edible? A yellow to orange dye is obtained from the root and stem. It is somewhat fugitive though. The leaves and bark are a good source of tannins. Wood - ornamental. Used for cabinet making, picture frames. The twigs are used in basketry.

Propagation of Smoke Tree:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. It should germinate in the spring. Slightly immature or "green" seed, harvested when it has fully developed but before it dries on the plant, gives the best results. Warm stratify stored seed for 2 - 3 months at 15C, then cold stratify for 2 - 3 months. Germination can be very slow, often taking 12 months or more at 15C. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seed has a long viability and should store for several years. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Trench layering in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry hillsides, rocky places and open woods, usually on limestone, to 1300 metres.

Known hazards of Cotinus coggygria:

Skin contact with this plant can cause dermatitis in sensitive people. Though related to several poisonous species, this species is definitely not poisonous.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.