Herb: Chittamwood

Latin name: Cotinus obovatus

Synonyms: Cotinus americanus, Rhus cotinoides

Family: Anacardiaceae (Cashew Family, Sumac Family)

Description of the plant:


10 m
(33 feet)

to May


Habitat of Chittamwood:

Calcareous rocky woods and bluffs.

Other uses of the herb:

An orange or yellow dye is obtained from the wood. This was extensvely used in America at the time of the Civil War, but is little used commercially at present. Wood - light, soft, rather coarse grained, very durable in the soil. It weighs about 40lb per cubic foot. Trees are too small and rare for commercial exploitation, but the wood is used locally for fence posts.

Propagation of Chittamwood:

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:

Calcareous rocky woods and bluffs.

Medicinal use of Chittamwood:

None known

Known hazards of Cotinus obovatus:

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.