This shrub is displaying attractive wafts of airy inflorescence beside Henslow Walk.
Cotinus obovatus (American smoke bush) is a native of North America, where it occurs in fragmented populations in forests from Colorado to Massachusetts. This dispersed distribution, and a long history of felling of large trees for the dye from the wood dating back to the Civil War, has resulted in this species now being of conservation concern. It is a large shrub or small tree reaching 10m in height, and has obovate to oval leaves, which take on brilliant orange, red and purple tones in autumn. In summer it produces loose plume-like panicles of thread-like, hairy stalks bearing few terminal panicles of flowers. Close inspection of the inflorescence shows a few small fruits held within the network of pink-tinged hairs. C. obovatus was first grown in the United Kingdom in 1882 when it was sent to Kew by Charles Sargent, Director of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum.